Monday, April 19, 2010

SFIA for self assesment

Greetings from the University of Adelaide, where I am in the software engineering building with 17 people involved in the ACS Computer Professional Education Program. It was a little lonely yesterday, with only a few people around the building on a Sunday, but the campus is bustling today with students in academic gown for graduation. Appropriate for the occasion we are starting our deliberations today with a presentation from David Lindley on how to use Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA) for professionals to think about their own needs for development of their skills. David entitled his talk: "Know thyself" from Delphi "nosce te ipsum".

David argues that just as Linneaus professional skills. The produced a binomial classification scheme for plants, SFIA provides one for SIFA classification as two parts: one of 86 skill sets and 7 levels of responsibility. The ACS provides education and so SFIA can be used to describe what skill sets and at what level education is being provided. The ACS Computer Professional Education Program is at level 5 of SFIA in a wide, in a specified collection of skill sets. To relate this more widely, a university degree course would aim for level 4 and a postgraduate course at level 5.

SFIA also has a second set of binomial terms for generic skills. Unfortunately this is part of SFIA I am not familiar with and am not sure how it is used.

David claimed that SFIA has been shown to be use full in practice, even though there has not been a Charles Darwin to show that classifications in natural have scientific underpinnings. One worry I have with this is the scientific aura it gives the classification of job skills. I doubt that such a classification has any fundamental underpinnings. Also I worry that SIFA depends on an Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) view of ICT. There is a risk that the easily understood management aspects of ICT will be emphasised and the technicalities will be lost.

I used SFIA to develop the Green ICT Course Computer Professional Education Program. However, I used essentially as a shopping list of skills categories, without a detailed understanding (this technique was described by one of my colleagues as "reverse engineering" the course specification from SFIA). This proved useful in practice and using some framework was better than none. Also using an internationally agreed "Framework" impresses those accrediting courses. But I would like a little more about it.

In terms of the individual professional, David argued that they should aim for a small number of skills (2 or 3, up to 5 or 6). This is so as to differentiate the individual from others. The difficulty is to get the individual to identify a few skills, not dozens. He described a technique from Sheelagh Flowerday, an Accredited SFIA Consultant. The suggested method is to first prepare a wish list, which might be dozens. On a second pass select core skills.

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