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Key skills: making a difference
Key skills: making a difference

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1.1.1 When do we use key skills?

Key skills underpin almost everything we do. In the following table, there are some examples of when we use key skills as part of our studies or in other areas of our lives. As you read through the list, think about how confident you are in each of the key skills.

Click here [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]   for a printable version of Table 1 that you can fill in.

Table 1 Key skills in daily life
Key skillExamples of use How confident are you?
Improving own learning and performanceUsing different learning strategies effectively.
Seeking feedback to monitor and improve our own performance.
Using a learning diary to help us reflect on how we are learning.
Planning the next stages in career development.
CommunicationGiving a presentation to other students or colleagues at work.
Writing up a project report.
Discussing the concepts and ideas, which might explain a particular issue or event.
Evaluating the outcomes of a piece of work and identifying key points for others.
Information and communication technologyPlanning how we are going to make the best use of IT in our studies and information-gathering activities.
Setting up a database for a project.
Integrating text, images and tables in a report, or other piece of work.
Information literacyRecognising a gap in our knowledge and identifying the information needed.
Planning and carrying out a search for information on a specific topic.
Evaluating and organising information so that it can be recorded effectively and presented to others.
Application of numberPlanning how to collect and record data for a project in a way that will make it easy to analyse.
Selecting and applying appropriate statistical techniques to a set of raw data and checking the results.
Interpreting data and presenting it in an assignment or project using appropriate charts, graphs and diagrams.
Evaluating cost and design estimates for a project based on data collected.
Problem solvingIdentifying and exploring problems.
Negotiating methods to resolve and manage problems.
Working with others to develop different strategies for solving problems.
Working with othersWorking in a team to complete an assignment, or work-based problem.
Planning and organising an event.

While we talk about the key skills as ‘separate’ skills, in practice the boundaries between the skills are not well defined and there is overlap between them.

Students who have used the approach of this course for their own skills development have commented on how they feel it has made a difference to the way they study and think about their learning. Here are some of the points they made:

On planning

Now that I have really started on the Key Skills work I use the course calendar to plan how I can build this work into my assignment schedule. Planning also alerted me to think about how much time I had to spend for studying and doing the key skills work.

On feedback and support

I also let my tutor know that I was doing this because I needed to get some comments and help from her.

On learning from others

I had gone to a learning skills workshop in March and this was useful as I heard about different ways of working from other students.

On improving performance

I am very nervous about the exam and I feel I don't do as well as I could despite getting good marks in my assignments. This year I decided to use the Improving Own Learning and Performance Key Skill to help me prepare for the exam.

Increasingly, employers are seeing the ability to adapt and transform to meet changing work requirements as being as important as specialist subject knowledge. One student who used key skills for both work and study said:

After I'd started my course my job changed and I needed to do a lot of IT work – especially word processing and using a database. I had to do something about this fast! I'd also thought for a long time that I would like to word process my assignments. I decided to use the IT key skill to help me develop and improve my IT skills.