The better you understand how your skills work, the better a learner you can be. Learn about the three different types of skills all learners can develop: knowledge, transferable skills, and traits to self-manage yourself.
- Now, you probably don't know it, but when you learn you're actually developing three kinds of skills. And the better you understand how those skills work, the better a learner you'll be. Now, let's say you want to learn how to design webpages. You need to know design principles and probably also know markup languages like HTML and CSS. You'd need to practice designing and problem solving and maybe even drawing. And you'd need to be organized and learn how to complete tasks. Now, thanks to the work of a man named Sidney Fine way back in the mid 20th century, we know each of those groupings is actually a different kind of skill.
Your first kind of skill is what you know. These knowledges are the chunks of information that you gather when you learn a particular field or activity. If you know webpage design principles or have memorized a recipe or designed a car engine or learned how to write a compelling story, you have a body of knowledge in your head about that activity. But knowing a recipe doesn't mean you can design a car engine, so knowledges are usually rooted in that particular arena. They're not very transferable.
Luckily, you have a second set of skills, skills that are transferable between different situations. If you're good at designing webpages, you'd probably also be good at designing a magazine. But transferable skills work on things outside of us, not ourselves, so there's a third kind of skill which you use to manage yourself. And we often call these skills traits. Think of how good you are at getting to appointments on time or finishing tasks or controlling your anger. These are actually skills.
And each of us is good at some and not as good at others as we'd like. So, your knowledges, your transferable skills, and your traits. When you learn, you develop one or more of these. Suppose you wanted to learn how to take apart a watch. The knowledge is how a watch is designed and the way that parts fit together. The transferable skills are abilities like using your hands and attending to detail. And the traits are skills like focus and patience. So, from now on, when you look at a course you want to take or a textbook you want to read or a training session, try to break down the learning goals into these three categories.
First, what new knowledges will you gain? The sniff test here is what will you learn that's rooted or anchored in a field or a particular arena? Second, what transferable skills will you learn? How will you get better at skills that can be used in a range of situations? The test here is if the skill ends in I-N-G, skills like analyzing, socializing, designing, even learning itself. Third, what traits will you continue to develop? Will this learning opportunity help you to improve your ability to finish tasks or to collaborate with others or to set a high bar for your work? How will you continue to improve as a human being so you can be your best self? So, now you're armed with an understanding that few people have, rather than the limited approach of traditional education which typically focuses just on knowledges.
You're empowered to look at all three kinds of your skills when you learn. Instead of just getting a chunk of information in your head, you can focus on developing all three kinds of skills as you go along your learning journey.