Skills and knowledge

It’s really important that pupils develop
skills. For example, when they’re learning the curriculum, it’s highly desirable that
pupils develop the ability to use their creativity, to evaluate, or to solve problems. Let’s take evaluation. It’s not true to
say that evaluation is something that can be developed on its own in the abstract. So
what it means, for example, to evaluate the result from a scientific experiment is very
different from what it means to evaluate the historicity of two sources that appear to
come from the Middle Ages. That evaluation skill is intimately connected with the content
and the knowledge being developed in each subject. And skills aren’t just cognitive. There
are really important physical skills as well. These often build over time into a peak of
technical performance, be that in the field of sport or dance or elsewhere. Very often
these complex and accomplished skilful performances draw on other skills, be that breath control,
or sprinting or something else. And they also draw on what’s known, be that nutrition
or an understanding of the body’s recovery times. If we think about the early years for a moment,
there are certain physical and cognitive skills that are pre-requisites for other learning,
be that holding a pencil or a crayon or being able to sit for an extended period and pay
attention. At the other end of education and on into
employment, there are certain technical and vocational skills that are extremely important
for learners and are also important for the prosperity of our nation. But an unnecessary and divisive debate has
emerged in some quarters that creates a false dichotomy between skills on the one hand and
knowledge on the other. And suggests that we and pupils and schools have to choose between
skills or knowledge. This is absolutely not the case. We know that skills and knowledge
are intimately connected. A skill is a complex performance, often something that builds over
time and draws on other knowledge and skills. So we can say that a skill is a complex performance,
drawing on what is known.

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