This Directory contains definitions and explanations of the 11 Elements of Capability (defined in “Key Terms”) used to create WRL Profiles. It explains the meaning and scope of the Element, explains the relationship of the main ideas it relates to, and explains the nature of stage-to-stage progression for the element. The WRL meaning of the words in bold italic in this Directory are defined in the Indicators of Progression Directory.

activities | responsibilities | working with others | quality | skills and procedures | communication | data| knowledge and know-how | context | problems and issues | values

WRL Elements of capability


In the WRLs, an activity is any kind of academic, social or occupational task, procedure or process, or responsibility.  An activity could be allocated, supervised or directed by another person, carried out as a normal function, or taken on voluntarily. The activity may be carried out by an individual or it may involve planning, organising, supervising, managing or overseeing the work of others.

Activities in the WRLs may be academic (eg acquiring knowledge, undertaking an enquiry to gather data, or communicating the results of academic research); social (eg contributing to the achievement of an objective, participating in a network, or motivating others to contribute to a campaign); or occupational, including training others.

In broad terms, this element progresses

  • from simple, highly structured activities which do not require knowledge or know-how which is specific to the field of the activity
  • through complex technical activities which require different kinds of expertise
  • to activities which are highly specialised, strategic or critical in their impact and require the creative use of advanced knowledge and know-how.



In the WRLs, responsibilities relate to the nature of the activities for which the individual is answerable, the degree he/she is free to/required to make decisions about these, and the extent to which he/she will be expected to take or give guidance or instruction.

In broad terms, this element progresses

  • from carrying out activities under instruction (very limited responsibilities)
  • through taking responsibility for planning one’s own activities and mentoring, giving guidance on, supervising or coordinating the activities of others
  • to taking full responsibility for planning, carrying out, evaluating and bringing about improvement in strategic activities across fields or organisations.


Working with others

This element is about collaboration and co-ordination.  It deals with roles in, or relating to, formal or informal teams, groups and organisations (including academic communities, social networks, and divisions of large organisations). The collaboration may be practical or intellectual and could draw on expertise in the form of skills, knowledge and know-how or insights. 

In broad terms, this element progresses

  • from working with others under instruction
  • through leading teams, and groups
  • to being a leader in the sense of shaping thought in a discipline, endeavour or occupation and collaborating with fellow experts and fellow leaders on strategic and critical activities.



This element covers the ability to monitor and measure the quality of performance against agreed or common measures and procedures and to take steps, though learning of different kinds, to maintain or raise the standard of activities or outcomes. The individuals concerned could be students, volunteers or employed persons and the performance could relate to generic or specialised activities at any level of responsibility.

It assumes that every individual undertaking an activity will know, or have been directed towards, what constitutes quality in that activity and its outcomes and will have an interest in maintaining or improving the quality through academic, personal and/or professional development.  For convenience, this element is divided into two layers: one about monitoring and checking, and reviewing or evaluating activities and their outcomes and the other about improving performance and outcomes by learning.

Learning” here denotes any kind of intentional learning.  It includes formal, non-formal and planned experiential learning and it may be carried out on instruction or independently.  It may relate to activities, responsibilities, skills, procedures, knowledge or know-how and it may be designed to maintain, improve or extend existing academic, social or work-related capabilities.

In broad terms this element progresses

  • from a situation where the individual is expected check on their own performance using standards which are set for them and to follow further instructions to maintain or improve quality
  • through the extension of responsibility to identifying the appropriate standards to evaluate their own performance and the performances of others and for identifying and pursuing means of maintaining or improving the quality of performance
  • to the situation where the individual is acting as a reflective practitioner in his/her own activities and has responsibilities for improving quality which are tied to some form of research, are more strategic and apply across groups or organisations.


Skills and procedures

In the WRLs, a skill is the ability to complete an activity satisfactorily.  Skills may be academic, social or occupational.  They may be intellectual, emotional or practical in nature.

A procedure is a way of doing a specific activity – it might be a methodology, a technique or a practice.

In broad terms, this element progresses

  • from an emphasis on practical/technical skills and procedures
  • to an emphasis on cognitive and creative skills and procedures
  • from simple and routine skills and procedures
  • to complex and highly specialised skills and procedures.

There is also a move from the individual using a limited range of skills and procedures to the individual selecting from a broad range.



This element covers the ability to use communication skills and procedures both to acquire information and ideas and to convey information and ideas to others.

In broad terms, this element progresses

  • from using basic or standard skills and procedures to access and record simple practical information and report it to a limited audience of colleagues and/or customers
  • through selecting skills and modes of communication to gather, interpret, and structure information and ideas and disseminate them to varied audiences
  • to critically analysing and evaluating the significance of advanced ideas and presenting them in an appropriate form to diverse audiences with different interests in, and levels of understanding of, the topics and issues concerned.



This element is about accessing, processing and evaluating numerical or other coded information.  It includes raw data and processed data, field data and experimental data.  It is intended to reflect the use of data in roles which do not normally require the particular expertise of academics or professionals in mathematics, statistics or computing.

In broad terms, this element progresses

  • from using simple numeracy skills, procedures and programmes to access or record raw data
  • through using a range of arithmetical and mathematical procedures and programmes to gather and process standard technical data for routine purposes
  • to selecting or specifying advanced processes and programs to generate and evaluate complex, technical and specialised


Knowledge and know-how

In most cases in the WRLs, the terms “knowledge” and “know how” are used together.

“Knowledge” is used to denote information and ideas which an individual can draw on or build on. “Know-how” denotes explicit or tacit procedural knowledge and understanding.  They may be practical or conceptual, academic, social or work-related, and may be acquired formally, non-formally or informally.

In most cases in the WRLs, the terms “knowledge” and “know how” are used together.

In broad terms, this element progresses

  • from general knowledge (ie not related to the specific field of activity) through knowledge of a field to knowledge which extends across a number of fields, normally at different levels
  • from narrow to extensive knowledge and know-how
  • from basic knowledge and simple know-how, through theoretical knowledge and conceptually-based know-how, to the most advanced theoretical knowledge and theory-based know-how
  • from using knowledge and know-how to enhancing it and creating new insights.



In the WRLs, statements of context describe the conditions under which activities will be carried out in terms which can apply to academic, social or occupational situations.  The context may support, influence or restrict the activity.

In broad terms, this element progresses

  • from stable and highly structured contexts
  • through contexts which are subject to change with different degrees of predictability
  • to unsettled and problematic contexts.

Dealing with such contexts will require increasing degrees of adaptability, innovation, initiative and creativity.


Problems and issues

In the WRLs, a problem is a difficulty or complication in an academic, social or occupational activity which requires some choice, adjustment or adaptation to allow the activity to proceed or be completed.  A problem may be simple, or complex, concrete or abstract, but in the WRLs it implies a direct difficulty of a kind which can reasonably be expected to be at least partly addressed immediately, adjusted for, or resolved.  At the lowest level problems are likely to be routinely recognised in the area of activity, but at the next levels problems may need to be scoped or defined before they can be addressed. 

In the WRLs, an issue is a deeper, or more long-term complication in an academic, social or occupational field which is likely to require investigation to identify, clarify or define, and may take considerable time to carry out.  Steps to address issues, which are likely to require the pursuit of quantitative or qualitative research, will normally be designed to produce reliable and durable results.

Both problem-solving and research are seen in the WRLs to have in common systematic investigation to establish and evaluate data, reach conclusions, and take or recommend action.  Both involve identifying, understanding, addressing, and resolving complications which arise in undertaking activities at a particular level in academic, social or occupational contexts. 

In broad terms, this element progresses

  • from dealing with familiar problems, or types of problem, which arise in standard activities,
  • through selecting and applying or adapting procedures for problem-solving and research
  • through addressing increasingly complex and contingent problems and issues
  • to developing new methods to deal with the most challenging and abstract issues.



This element is about how and how far individuals can be expected to respond to ethical, social or environmental dimensions of their activities.  It includes situations which may or may not be covered by relevant rules of practice or codes of conduct.  These could arise in relation to academic, social or work activities in any field or at any WRL Stage of Progression.  

In broad terms, this element progresses

  • from situations in which the individual is not expected to encounter ethical, social or environmental issues beyond those covered by existing policies and procedures;
  • to situations where the individual will deal with ethical, social or environmental issues by using structured responses or reporting any which cannot be dealt with in this way;
  • through situations where the individual may have to select the most appropriate response to problems, questions or issues which arise, drawing on existing codes of practice;
  • to situations where the individual will have the responsibility for addressing emerging issues which are not covered by existing policies, procedures or codes.