Self-assessment is a hidden resource in working life - Riitta Forsten-Astikainen's dissertation on self-reflection and holistic perception of competence

Riitta Forsten-Astikainen, project director of the Regional Council of Pohjois-Savo, who previously also worked as a project researcher at the University of Oulu, Kerttu Saalasti Institute, defended her doctoral thesis at the University of Oulu on 27 October 2023. The theme of the thesis was "Self-reflection in work competencies evaluation". The topic of Forsten-Astikainen's dissertation is very current, as the transformation of work, globalisation, digitalisation and looming labour shortages call for a reassessment of competences and the need for new assessment methods.
Riitta Forsten-Astikainen

According to Forsten-Astikainen, organisations are currently not taking a broad enough perspective on the competency requirements of today's working life and are not identifying the competencies needed. Until now, competencies have been assessed in the workplace mainly by the management and HR departments of the organisations, and the assessment has largely relied on the knowledge acquired through formal qualifications and work experience.

"In human resources departments, competencies are assessed too narrowly and too much as a matter of course. Competencies are also created in informal situations and in everyday life. Informal learning takes place even if there is no real intention to learn something new, or even if you don't notice it or can't relate it to your job. Learning is a continuous process of development through different experiences. The focus of competency assessment from the individual's perspective on top-down evaluation means that the individual lacks self-reflection and insight and misses out on a significant method of assessment. This prevents the hidden competency potential from emerging to enhance the meaningfulness and productivity of work," says Forsten-Astikainen in her dissertation.

The thesis highlighted the need to identify an individual's competencies as a holistic concept of competency. It is also important to recognise the invisible humanity and the personality and behaviour of the individual, as this enables latent opportunities to do the job better or differently. The holistic concept of competency emphasises that competencies are not tied to a single, strict knowledge concept, but is related to a wider context, attitudes and abilities.

In her doctoral thesis, Forsten-Astikainen introduces new methods and approaches to study the self-reflective capacity of individuals and the models of action that support reflection. Using qualitative and interpretative case study approach, the research reveals the possibilities and limitations of self-reflection.
"Reflection needs illustrative methods, such as concept maps, because few people are able to directly realise their inner potential or talent and link their talents to related competencies," says Forsten-Astikainen.

The three related articles are linked to the current debate on the transformation of work. The results of the study confirm the finding that individual self-reflection plays a role in the process of competency assessment. The results also show what it takes for an organisation and management to support self-reflection, the barriers and challenges individuals face in pursuing self-reflection, and the potential that self-reflection can offer. The dissertation presents a future-oriented competency framework based on a holistic concept of competency. The framework takes into account the new competency requirements of the changing world of work.

Forsten-Astikainen's opponents were Professor Emerita Anna-Maija Lämsä of the University of Jyväskylä and Professor Vesa Suutari of the University of Vaasa. The supervisors of the doctoral thesis were Professor Matti Muhos, Director of the University of Oulu, Kerttu Saalasti Institute and Associate Professor Kyllikki Taipale-Erävala at the University of Eastern Finland.

Last updated: 28.11.2023