Beliefs about ‘improvability’ of career-relevant skills: relevance to job/task analysis, competency modelling, and learning orientation



Based on data obtained from three samples of participants from both a work organization and a college setting, this paper addressed two major research objectives relevant to organizational behavior and applied psychology. First, we wanted to explore the nature of implicit theory of skill malleability in more detail than has been done before. This was done by drawing on KSAO dimensions from the task/job analysis literature, and examining linkages among: (a) task/job analysis; (b) implicit theories; and (c) competency modelling (an area in which there has been little empirical research). The studies found multiple factors of beliefs about KSAO improvability and showed a clear ordering of improvability beliefs (from most to least improvable) that follow predictions made in the Iceberg model of competencies. The present studies also found relationships between perceptions of KSAO importance and KSAO improvability, as well as evidence that this relationship is stronger for people who have been in a role/job longer, having had greater opportunity to observe critical KSAOs improve over time. A second major objective of the research was to explore improvability beliefs within a nomological network that would help to further establish the construct validity of the beliefs within the learning/development area. Using structural modelling, the improvability beliefs were tied to learning-oriented concepts including self-efficacy for learning and development, tendency to compare oneself to others when learning, as well as learning-oriented attitudes and behaviors. The potential practical value of improvability beliefs is discussed, as are suggestions for future research. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.