Learning Skills

6 Dec

I could interpret this title in two ways – one, the skills required to learn, and two, the process of learning specific skills.

The word Skills comes with its own baggage, often being associated with vocational qualifications – which in turn is associated with non-academic and non professional careers. And yet we need a range of skills that transcend these virtual silos, skills that make for effective learning and practice. Of course there are certain skills that are more important in one and less so in others.. for example the ability to take notes is a skill, but is not as necessary for a motor mechanic as it is for a medical student. Yet, both are destined for careers that will require similar skills – rapid diagnosis, resource mapping, delivering a solution based on skills applied to prior knowledge acquired and then of course customer care skills.

How do we know what skills we need to acquire? Well, for starters, there is a set of skills that aid the learning process – pattern recognition, rote-memorization, organization, timeliness etc.  Many of us acquire them during our school years, some sooner and others later. We learn smart ways to survive the system that we are in i.e.  we become skilled in managing the system. But what is it that we are really learning? Are we learning how to learn, or are we learning how to manage a process?

It is easier to acquire skills that help us manage a structured process such as school where success criteria are fairly clearly defined.  The skills we require are fairly clear: goal setting, planning, limited scale implementation, some social skills, and of course, communication skills. If all teaching and learning are geared towards getting better marks, then we tend to hone those skills.  We are often led by rewards and requirements in building our skill sets.

Then, there are other skills that we realize we forgot to cultivate – and we often realize this only when things begin to go wrong and gaps are identified. Of course, there are some who upskill in search of opportunity. Personal choice and personal effort are key factors in such endeavours. The key question for an education system is one of design: How does one design a system that encourages a range of skills necessary for the future?

This blogpost was published on October 12, 2011 at http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/educable/entry/learning-skills

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