Always read the small print – the decoupling of skills and knowledge in our exams

Esse Quam Videri

There is a funny thing about the skills versus knowledge debate. It is odd that anyone presumes many people would seriously argue for what is obviously a false dichotomy, a choice between skills or knowledge. On the other hand I do know that many people decouple skills from knowledge. They try to teach generic skills with subject matter chosen largely for its suitability as a vehicle towards teaching those skills. Thinking skills, learning to learn and twenty first century skills are education buzz words.

However, there is actually quite a large volume of research suggesting that:

  1. Skills are the product of fluency of knowledge in a specific area.
  2. Skills learnt in one area don’t transfer readily to other areas.

The idea that it is very possible to teach generic skills such as critical thinking or creative thinking is so seriously contested by the research [this article is a clear…

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