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

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2.3.1 Developing a strategy

A common feature of how effective people work is that they take time to prepare well. They know which aspects they are competent to do and those that they need to work on, plan carefully and identify possible sources of information and support. In other words they develop a strategy.

A strategy is a plan for taking you towards and achieving a goal. The purpose of planning is to anticipate opportunities to learn that will improve your performance and develop your capabilities. A strategy is a systematic process, and detailed planning may involve interaction and negotiation with other people. In developing your skills you can build on what you know from past experiences and map out your steps towards achieving your goals, such as improving your essay writing, or being able to work effectively with others using computer conferencing. A set of clear goals makes it easier to measure your progress by comparing where you are with where you want to be.

Later this year I have to complete an ecology project that will involve statistical analysis and spreadsheet work. I intend to identify these two areas (improving my statistics and learning Excel) for key skills development.

In developing a strategy that will work for you, it is useful to break down the task into smaller, manageable parts. This involves setting realistic targets, identifying what information you will need, and planning what methods you are going to use to improve your skills. An important part of this stage is researching the resources you need for the work, including identifying how and when you need to get feedback on your performance.

Your strategy also needs to be flexible to enable you to adapt your approach in response to feedback from others (such as a tutor, line manager, colleagues or other students), or to changes in your work or personal circumstances. Being an effective learner means planning for learning, rather than hoping that good learning opportunities will just turn up. Developing a strategic approach, then, involves planning, deciding on targets and timetables, looking at what your study requirements are, and identifying the different skills and resources that you'll need. This approach is all part of improving your own learning and performance-one of the key skills.