Writing effective competencies and benchmarks

Competencies (understanding) Benchmarks (doing)
Understands Uses
Knows Expresses
Recognizes Demonstrates
Differentiates ... Converts ...
  1. Begin each competency or benchmark with an action verb. Competencies start with verbs related to understanding. Benchmarks start with verbs about doing.

  2. Limit each competency or benchmark to one sentence of circa 140 characters, the length of a Twitter posting. If a thought seems to require more words, consider splitting it into two simpler thoughts.

  3. Spell out acronyms at least once. Use your judgement. In a competency index about Linked Data, frequently used acronyms such as OWL and URI need only be spelled out once: Knows Web Ontology Language, or OWL (2004), an RDF vocabulary of properties and classes that extend support for expressive data modeling and automated inferencing (reasoning).

  4. Include historical context if possible. Linked Data technology has largely evolved over the past quarter century and continues to evolve. Knowing the year when a technology or concept was introduced helps readers, for example: World Wide Web (1989), HTTP (1991+), URIs (1994), OWL (2004), and Linked Data (2006).

  5. Include enough detail to characterize the nature of competency in a domain. Competencies and benchmarks should not aim at covering all features of a technology, in the manner of a reference manual. Attempts at comprehensiveness risk making the CI brittle in the face of inevitable change, and they risk making the CI boring to read.

  6. Draw attention to ambiguity in the definition or use of terminology. For example, one competency reads: Knows that the word "ontology" is ambiguous, referring to any RDF vocabulary, but more typically a set of OWL classes and properties designed to support inferencing in a specific domain.

  7. Enlarge the set of topics covered by the index with prudence, bearing in mind that adding high-level topic cluster will broaden the scope of the index as a whole. If new high-level topic clusters are proposed, however, consider whether they really fit into the scope of this particular competency index or, perhaps, imply the need for a second competency index with a different scope (for example, one focused on the design of Knowledge Organization Systems).