The argument regarding the relative importance of teaching generic or transferable skills and teaching the inflexible knowledge which underlies more flexible thinking, is one that divides many teachers and, in my opinion, typically generates more heat than light.
Part of the problem is undoubtedly the rhetoric. Teachers who emphasise the importance of developing skills sometimes stereotype the opposition as believing that inflexible knowledge is the means and ends of education. On the other hand, teachers that emphasise the importance of the inflexible knowledge base required for more complex or fluid uses of that knowledge sometimes stereotype the opposition as believing that skills are ‘content-free’ and require no prior knowledge to employ.
I’ve written before about attempts to move past these stereotypes to look at the genuine questions. It’s an important issue as the opportunity costs are high. If we waste time explicitly teaching children skills that they naturally develop, then…
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