Letter: Don't separate skills

September 28, 2001

Skills? Yes, indeed. Students need skills and, at the conclusion of their courses, they should know what skills they have acquired ("How to put first-years on the right track", THES , September 7). But does it follow that skills should be taught in courses devoted to skills alone?

It may look neat and tidy, but it does not work in learning and teaching terms. Students are quickly bored by skills in isolation. That does not encourage learning.

Students gain skills best in a broad framework of knowledge and understanding promoted by a specific subject or group of subjects. Otherwise, it is like learning to speak without having anything to say.

Of course, there may be technicalities that need extra tuition, such as information technology. But the fashion for analysing the components of subjects is taken too far if learning is fragmented into content and skills. Let us keep skills where they work best - in a framework of knowledge.

Penelope Corfield

Royal Holloway

University of London

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