Knowledge vs. Skills



Did you know that the Deep Water Horizon offshore oil rig was so complicated that during it’s disruption the crew was unable to function or even think clearly to stop the situation. The rig was simply too complex for them to correct the disaster as it was happening.

We have a long tradition of separating “knowledge” from “skills”. If you are a “white collar” worker, you should possess a lot of knowledge. If you are a “blue collar” worker, you should possess a lot of skills. And, in fact, knowledge and skills reside in two very different parts of the brain. Knowledge is housed in what we call Semantic memory, and skills are housed in what we call Procedural memory.

We try to differentiate the two memories, but you really need to effectively utilize both to achieve throughout life. We have college graduates who have to take numerous unpaid internships because they don’t have any real world skills. But we also have businesses refusing to ever consider hiring anyone without a college degree because they feel they don’t have the fundamental knowledge to work effectively in a modern technological and global society.

What’s a person to do? Focus on both memories. Find out what skills complement the knowledge that you have, and visa-versa. Consider getting a two-year degree first, work for awhile, and then acquire more knowledge with a four-year degree. While knowledge can be learned through lectures and reading, skills can only be learned by doing. In modern learning through life, we need more opportunities for trade-style or apprenticeship style learning alongside traditional classroom courses. People must be practicing their skills continually even as they are gathering more knowledge.


About chbernat

I am a technical writer and instructional designer. I have an intense interest in adult learning and instructional design principles. I greatly feel that adults need to take control of their own learning in order to advance their knowledge and skills throughout life.
This entry was posted in Adult Education, Individualized Learning, Technology. Bookmark the permalink.

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