I distinctly remember my 6t grade social studies assignment to write a research paper on Ancient Egyptian history. We got to choose our own topic, and I was interested in the Queen Nefertiti who is now more famous than her Pharaoh husband. Those of you who read my blog, have probably noticed that story telling is not my one of my strengths. It doesn’t come natural, and it’s only once in a while that I think of a good story to include in my posts. 6th grade was the start of this lifelong battle with writing. My research involved writing down quotes of important information from various sources, and combining them into the final paper. I do not recall what preparation and training was provided for this task, but I do remember the note on my graded paper to redo the work and this time write the paper in my own words. There is a lot I don’t remember about childhood, but this embarrassment, although not public, has seared this experience into my memory. And although I cannot say I have mastered the skill, at least I’m conscientious not to plagiarize.
I think growing up, my view of education was that we were taught knowledge. My view of that particular assignment at the time was that I was supposed to learn facts about Ancient Egyptian history, but now I see how the class was teaching me a skill to be used throughout the rest of my life. Would I have performed better, had I been focused on the development of the skill rather than the accumulation of knowledge, maybe?
Each grade level and class type during K-12 education will vary in it’s focus. Math and Science I think are more weighted on teaching knowledge with some skills learned as well, but history and social studies have the opposite distribution. Maybe this distinction doesn’t make a difference to students, or educators. Maybe the educators are completely aware of this and subtly build it into their curriculum so that students have no idea. But I think I might have learned more, if I realized the necessity of learning skills.
My boyfriend used to teach at the graduate level, thinks that higher education is more focused on the learning of knowledge. If this were true, then we might expect it could be possible to test through an undergraduate degree. But to my knowledge, you have to complete equivalent coursework to be eligible for a diploma. Does this suggest we are more concerned about people learning skills?