Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Intersection of Skills and Subjects

skills and subject2 (2)Skills need developing.

Skills need practice.

Skills help students learn.

Skills will help students do well in college.

Skills will help students succeed in life after school.

Collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking are skills.

Reading, writing, synthesizing, thinking, presenting, and delivering on time are skills.

On the other hand, United States History (for example) is a topic, a subject, a focus, etc.  It is not a skill.

Schools help students develop skills through the introduction of diverse subjects.  Each subject is unique in its focus, thus requiring students to use diverse skills to learn the material.  Sometimes the skills developed in a course are as important to success in the next course as learning the material is.  For example, the research skills I learned in US History were more valuable to my success the following year in Ancient World History than the subject matter, which had nothing at all to do with Ancient World History.

Skills matter in school, but not in isolation of subject matter.

Subject matter is important.  Knowing stuff is important.  You don’t want to be the person I heard at Arlington National Cemetery telling their child that Ted Kennedy was a President who was assassinated in Florida while campaigning for re-election (Yes, I actually heard that).  You don’t want to be the person no one can hold a conversation with because you are so uninformed that trying to hold a stimulating conversation is nearly impossible.

The less you know, the more time you use looking up the answers.  Not a bad way to spend time.  I like learning new things.  But, the more you learn, the more you want to learn because as you get more informed, your questions get better and deeper.  The more you know, the more time you have to be creative, do something new, or help other people.

Teachers, students are in your room to learn, not to see how much you know.

  • Does that homework assignment give students an opportunity to practice valuable skills while reinforcing the important subject material?
  • Is that test a measurement of student understanding or just a grade in the grade book?
  • In addition to today’s topic, what skills are refined by your lecture?
  • Along with demonstrating understanding of the material, how much of your grading system considers demonstration of skills?

We learn more, we ask better questions.

We ask better questions, we understand deeper.

          We understand deeper, we become more involved.

                     We get involved, we find a passion..

Passions motivate.  Motivated students produce great work.

When skills and subjects intersect, motivated students who do great work emerge.

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