The Double Helix: How knowledge is vital for skills in English

Joe Kirby's blog

In English education, skills are being detached from knowledge.

But teaching skills without knowledge doesn’t work.

Instead, knowledge and skills must be integrated, like a double helix.


Only by specifying, sequencing and assessing knowledge can we begin to build critical thinking skills. So Bloom’s taxonomy should not be seen as a ladder or league table, where knowledge is relegated to the bottom rung. Instead, it’s more accurate to see skills and knowledge as a double helix, interweaving application, analysis, evaluation and synthesis and moving from shaky, surface and shallow knowledge up to deep knowledge.


For example, the goal of teaching a Macbeth GCSE unit is an in-depth understanding of the text for a comparative analytical essay. Pupils’ ability to interpret the play critically depends on how deep their knowledge is of the content and context. The more they know about Jacobean concerns, the better they’ll write…

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