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

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4.1a Working on the key skill of communication

A main aim of this key skill is for you to communicate effectively – orally, visually and in writing. For communication to be effective it must be managed. This involves consciously adapting your skills for different situations by selecting the appropriate method of communication for the work. Using the three-stage key skills framework will to help you become more confident in:

  • developing a strategy for using oral, visual and written forms of communication so that you can improve your skills and learn increasingly complex material through reading, listening and writing;

  • monitoring your progress as you use and apply your communication skills and critically reflecting on your performance so that you can speak or write about the material and provide visual versions of it; and

  • evaluating your overall strategy and presenting the outcomes of your work – to improve your communication skills and encourage you in new situations and with new audiences.

The timescale for developing skills is, of course, different for all of us. But in higher education where you are involved with complex ideas and at work where you are sometimes faced with difficult or sensitive situations, you need sufficient time to make use of opportunities to practise and improve your communication techniques. You also need to be able to integrate the ideas you develop into your study or work routines. For example, you may spend some time exploring and using different techniques in note taking. You then need to have opportunities to practise those techniques in your day-to-day study or work. We estimate that you will need around 3 months or more to use and improve your communication skills before you can use those new skills confidently.

As you work on developing and improving your communication skills, you will undoubtedly need to collect notes, reference lists, feedback from colleagues, assignments, tutor comments and so on. Try to keep all your notes and records together with your own comments in your Skills File. These records will be helpful in planning and monitoring your progress and for recording your achievements.

Click here [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]   to open the Bookmark for this section. It describes the key skill and gives the criteria to help you monitor and assess your performance. You should keep it to hand by either printing it out or simply keeping it open on your desktop throughout this section.

If you are aiming for assessment of this key skill, you will need to show that you can develop a strategy, monitor your progress and evaluate your performance in completing work which uses written, oral and visual forms of communication through discussion and presentation work and presenting written material.

Next we guide you through the three-stage framework. In each stage, the ‘Time outs’ aim to help you think about and develop your strategy, implement it and present your outcomes. The work associated with each stage is not designed to be done in a one-off session. Each stage is likely to run over several weeks. You may need to consider some aspects more than once, adapting your strategy as things progress. At the end of each stage there is an activity that invites you to pull together your notes and ideas.