GEM’s Competency Framework

As part of our mission to support and empower our community of colleagues to connect and develop their knowledge and skills to deliver learning, we have updated GEM’s competency framework.

What is the Competency Framework?

Competencies are different behaviours, attributes, skills and knowledge that are considered necessary to perform effectively at work. Within GEM’s competency framework, these are specialised for learning and education roles in museums, heritage sites and other cultural settings, although job titles may vary.

GEM’s Competency Framework

The competencies are grouped into four categories, collections of competency statements that fit together under the broader groupings of “Building Relationships”, “Professional Practice”, “Digital Skills” and “Reflective Practice”. Within these categories there are themes, within which progression is represented by reading left to right.

Each individual competency is described at three different levels: foundation, experienced and leading. You do not have to meet every statement at every level, and leading statements are relevant to all, not just those in leadership roles! You may find that for your role it is important to be highly competent in one area, while other areas are simply beneficial.

What are they for?

Museum and heritage learning practitioners have chosen to use the Competency Framework in a variety of ways since they were first developed in 2014, and we invite sector colleagues to use them in whatever way is most effective for their work.

The framework is commonly used to:

  • Further the professionalisation of learning roles by identifying the core competencies required and establishing professional standards for the workforce.
  • Enable educators to assess their own skills and plan their continuing professional development.
  • Focus and guide GEM Training Courses to ensure relevancy, including the GEM Foundation Course in Museum Learning.
  • Assist performance reviews.
  • Help recruiters to identify appropriate competencies for role specifications.

You can find out more about how to use the interactive features of the updated GEM Competency Framework here.

How have they been developed?

GEM’s Core Competency Framework was initially developed in 2014, as part of our strategy to develop a highly skilled and respected heritage learning workforce. In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic hastened the development of new digital learning opportunities, and it became clear that the Competency Framework needed updating to retain relevance for learning professionals.

In 2021, freelance museum educator Thomas Briggs worked with the GEM team to update the competencies, building on his own digital competencies for museum educators developed during his MA. A wide consultation took place, including a survey of sector professionals and requests for feedback from those who use the competencies most often. As the updated framework was developed it was reviewed by leaders in the sector, GEM Trustees, and GEM mentors to enhance its useability and relevance.

The updated GEM Competency Framework includes five different versions of the document, for accessibility and flexibility of usage:

  1. Reference Version (Google Sheets)

This copy of the Competency Framework can be viewed online and downloaded by anyone. It is not interactive, but includes easy navigation between categories, and full information about each competency.

  1. Reference Version (Microsoft Excel)

This copy of the Competency Framework is the same as above, but created in Microsoft Excel for download.

  1. Self-Assessment Version (Google Sheets)

This copy of the Competency Framework can be downloaded as a fully interactive document, with the functionality to assess your own skills and track your continuing professional development. As you master each competency statement, your progress bar on the dashboard will increase as a visual representation of your progression.

  1. Self-Assessment Version (Microsoft Excel)

This copy of the Competency Framework is the same as above, but can be downloaded as a Microsoft Excel file.

  1. Print Version (Plain-Text PDF)

This copy of the Competency Framework is intended for those who prefer a less detailed overview, or would like to print it out to work on a hard copy. Interactive features have been removed, but a digital table of contents can be accessed via the PDF.

There are three levels to each competency, Foundation, Experienced and Leading. Generally, statements in the Foundation level would be met before those in Experienced or Leading, but it is not necessary to complete each level within one category before progressing to the next. Most people will be at different levels in different themes, across different categories.

Who is expected to complete what?

  • Expectations depend on a broad range of factors, including job role and its level within the organisation. For example, a Learning Manager with many years of experience may aim to become proficient in all themes to “Experienced” level, but working towards Foundation level statements in themes less crucial to their specific responsibilities. This is not an indicator that they are “failing”, but rather specialised, and seeking to broaden their skills.
  • Level descriptions should not be seen as limitations, for example somebody in an Officer level role may aim to complete “Leading” level competencies in themes that are specific to their duties.
  • For people in different roles, different themes will have different priorities. While everyone should strive to achieve proficiency in all of the Foundation level statements, most people will start to specialise and tailor their professional development.
  • Few people will aim to fulfil every “experienced” statement, and most will become proficient at only a small number of “leading” level competencies.


You can find out more about each category below:

Building Relationships

These competencies relate to seeking out and nurturing the connections between
people that can help us develop our organisations, our teams and ourselves.

Professional Practice

This contains competency statements which ensure that we have the ability,
drive and means to keep our skills up to date.

Reflective Practice

This category collects together competency statements that contribute to
embedding continuous learning and development that is informed by past experience.

Digital Skills

These competencies acknowledge the increased prevalence of digital technologies in
all areas of life and work, and recognise the opportunities provided by them.

GEM recognises that in a rapidly changing world, the Competency Framework must be flexible to remain relevant to the requirements and opportunities of museum learning roles. These documents will be subject to continued development, and we welcome your feedback via email to [email protected].

Are the categories and themes subject to a hierarchy?

Nope! The only hierarchy within the Core Competencies is in relation to the three levels. Each category is equally valuable and considered an instrumental part of delivering learning, and they can be completed in any order.

I'm a freelancer, are the Core Competencies relevant to me?

Yes! You can use the Competency Framework to assess your skills and plan out your professional development for the future, including any training courses you may wish to go on to fill gaps in your knowledge. It can be difficult to find time to prioritise your CPD as a freelancer, but this is a great way to focus the time you spend investing in yourself.

Where can I learn more about the Competency Framework and how it can be used?

Join our upcoming free training sessions for individuals and organisations to learn more about why GEM’s Competency Framework matters, and how they can implement it into their own CPD practices.

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