2004-2005: The Competency Project in North America

Finding movement

Photo: © Rosalie O'Connor 2005-2007. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission, courtesy of FGNA.

June 28, 2005 - 2:25pm -- Rob Black

"Discovering our Self Image as a Profession"

Report from one discussion topic at the Forum at the FNGA Conference, 2004}
{published in InTouch, the newsletter of FGNA, November, 2004}
Submitted by Robert Black

Rineke in Amsterdam
“It is so elegant, yet diversified enough to meet the needs of the practitioner,” said Vena Flint after hearing about the IFF Competency Profile Project at the 2004 FGNA Conference in Seattle. Two members of the project, Rob Black and Rineke Brinkhof, presented the project to the North American community of practitioners that had assembled in Seattle.

Rob and Rineke described how the Competency Profile will be a document that describes the multiple competencies of our practice of the Feldenkrais Method.

For some practitioners, when they hear that a Competency Profile is being considered, alarm bells go off connected with all things un-Feldenkrais, including: “imposition of evaluation, external judgment, and limiting and constricting what and how to practice." One needs only to read a few pages of Awareness Through Movement to get the idea that Moshé also might have been critical – if indeed preparing a competency profile really meant those things! Amy Slate found herself, "Delighted that what could have been handled in a truly alarming way turned out instead to be such an inspiring embodiment of Feldenkrais principles—one that I imagine will indeed lead to greater functionality, greater competency for practitioners.”

Cliff in Amsterdam
After she had listened to the presentation and participated in the forum group, Amy found she was, “…impressed with the presentation, the thoughtfulness, the usefulness of profiles and the research.”

Participants, such as Amy, discovered how the IFF definition of competency was different from what they had expected, but very rich and with fascinating possibilities. For the IFF project, competency means the ability to mobilize, in a professional situation, the resources needed to perform. “This allows competency to be an active, generative process,” noted Rob Black. Each competency that arises is an integration of many resources—skills, knowledge and abilities— that the practitioner draws upon for the function that is manifest.

Rob and Rineke described how the IFF insisted that the process for developing the Competency Profile be consistent with the Method. First, a series of Feldenkrais-Specific guidelines were developed by Dr. Barbara Pieper. This provided a framework for the evaluation of a process for generating the competencies.

Walter Goetze
The consultant to the project, Dr. Walter Goetze of Zurich, Switzerland, says that, “When I learned about the Feldenkrais Method, I saw that much of the teaching comes so clearly in the stories. We adapted a respected technique to make it more ‘Feldenkrais-like’, and by adapting it, we turned it much more into a participative process. This first step of the process is a way for practitioners to tell a story about a time in their practice."

“Story telling is a wonderful way to connect persons and shared experience. I can express myself better if I am asked to tell a story,” said Pat Hendricks. She added, “In the group, the stories just poured out. Just think what would happen in the community, how many more stories would be produced!”

This process has further benefits. In the Feldenkrais Method, there are many things which are "unspeakable" or not easy to verbalize. Dr. Goetze notes, “We are able to use the storytelling to make the implicit explicit.”

The next part of the process is to bring together experienced practitioners for a weekend workshop to study the stories and allow the images of competency to emerge. Sylvia Matthews sees this step as: “Using the eyes and ears of the participants to detect what was meant in each story, what is unique in the Feldenkrais Method.” She feels that this leads to a good approximation of being a Feldenkrais practitioner.

Markus in Amsterdam
The IFF piloted the process in Europe, with the German-speaking Guilds under the guidance of project member Markus Riesen.. The results were very encouraging. Thus a second workshop for the German-speaking communities is scheduled for November in Hamburg.

The IFF will bring the process to the English-speaking communities in October with the first step: the story-generating process. Emails will be sent to practitioners, inviting them to participate in the process by completing the on-line questionnaire (between November 1 and November 15). The completed questionnaires will be collated, so that they can be used in January at the first English-language workshop in San Francisco. The second workshop will be in New York in June.

The language and cultural challenges are profound. Rineke asked, “While each workshop builds on the previous ones, can the results in German also be used—when translated— with English-speaking communities?” This will be tested in January 2005 at the first English-speaking workshop in San Francisco.

Even with the challenges, participants in the forum were optimistic. Sylvia Matthews said, “I see the Profile process emerging as a living tool. Over time, by holding a new round of workshops it might be possible to detect new ideas that have been widely adopted and effective in the work, and then to include what’s useful in our understanding of competency.”

As Dr. Goetze says, “The Competency Profile will be ‘correct,' when it ‘feels’ correct to the Feldenkrais community,” when the Profile reflects what people do in their practice; when they can use it to think about what they do and how they do it.

As practitioners become familiar with the Competency Profile and the process, they will discover many benefits for themselves. Laura saw that she could “…give it to other professionals I am working with” to aid in their understanding of her work. Others saw how they could use it themselves for their own development. Further, the possibilities for workshops and mentorship relationships are obvious.

Rob in Amsterdam
The Forum participants were enthusiastic about the project and the possibilities and jointly summarized their understanding: “The process is self-defining (by the body of practitioners) for our own use and to use to communicate with the public.” They felt very strongly that, “This is defining our self-image as a profession.”

The IFF has been interested in helping practitioners develop in their practice since it was formed in 1992. Intense research and discussions began in 1999. Two threads emerged, the Competency Profile and the Quality workshops. These flowed naturally into the IFF Academy through which the IFF has produced not just the Competency thread, but also workshops for practitioners and also a multilingual online journal. More information about the IFF Academy is available on-line at: current site.

"Feldenkrais people often seems to be at the leading edge of things," says Project member and past IFF President, Cliff Smyth. "This is certainly true for the Competency Profile process. The major professions in the world are only now beginning to develop international competency profiles ­ there is much they could learn from the work that the IFF has engaged in."