Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Skills-based education

with 3 comments

Suppose your job is to prepare people for adult life, and your part of the curriculum is devoted to imparting skills. Which skills are most important for your charges to learn?

One answer, of course, is the trivium (grammar, rhetoric, and logic) and the quadrivium (arithmetic, astronomy, geometry, and music), but perhaps that’s a bit esoteric.

Communication skills are obvious: skill in reading, writing, speaking, and listening. These (except for the last) are frequently taught.

What else? Dustin Wax has an interesting list, to which I would add  (besides reading and listening):

1. Negotiating skills
2. Foreign language skill (at least one)
3. Planning skills (PERT, for example—as a *planning* technique, before work starts)
4. People management/leadership skills (communication, evaluation, training, organizing, assigning effectively)
5. Drawing (not in the sense of portraits or scenes from nature, but in the ability to make freehand graphs, diagrams, floor plans, and the like—see the book Thinking With A Pencil.)
6. Creative thinking, rather different from critical thinking and definitely a skill that can be taught. See, for example, Edward De Bono’s CoRT program.
7. Body awareness/movement skills—we are often judged on how we hold ourselves and how we move, and so movements skills should be learned (through dance, martial arts, or the like)
8. Touch typing—certainly today a high level of keyboarding skill is important.
9. Observational skills—people can be taught to observe better: we all see, but (as Sherlock Holmes pointed out), few observe. (Cf. the difference between hearing and listening.) See (observe?) this post. And this post, too, might be of interest: how to describe a person.
10. Etiquette skills—grace and courtesy in social contacts is vital knowledge, and it is best studied and learned rather than faked. Awkwardness and uncertainty are thus avoided, and everyone feels better—especially yourself, since you know what you’re doing and how to do it.

And in decision-making, I would include long-term after-the-fact evaluation of decisions.

Relevant books:

Negotiation: Getting to Yes
Decision-making: Decision Traps and/or Winning Decisions
People management: Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

Written by LeisureGuy

30 July 2008 at 9:07 am

Posted in Daily life, Education

3 Responses

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  1. Hi

    That way of defining education, by a list of capabilities, skills, or human traits as opposed to a list of subjects to study, (X credit hours science, Y credit hours History….) is gaining currency. Here’s a short essay by William Cronon with a really great list. (U of Wisconsin, Madison, Prof. of Environmental History)

    I also recommend “Five Minds for the Future” by Howard Gardner
    (Prof. of Cognitive Psychology, Harvard, best known for his work on Multiple Intelligences.)


    30 July 2008 at 11:45 am

  2. What one wants, of course, is a good combination of skills and content—and indeed some skills are taught by or require certain content. For example, in learning to read difficult works, one needs practice in reading difficult works—difficult not because they are poorly written, but because they are deep and the arguments presented are complex. Then, to test one’s understanding, a directed discussion works well, while also providing the students with practice in listening and in speaking, with immediate feedback that helps improve the skills. (I am, of course, cribbing from the Great Books program offered by St. John’s College.)


    30 July 2008 at 11:49 am

  3. Oho! Very clever — I tried to keep my educational reformer self down in that Lifehack post, but you’ve pushed it quite far. I agree completely — these are skills that should be part of any elementary/secondary education, and they’re sadly neglected. In part because even skills are taught as subjects — “Speech class” — and in part because most schools aren’t set up with the future success of their students as a goal. Sad, but all too true.


    31 July 2008 at 7:22 am

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