2.4 Gathering evidence – your qualities, knowledge and skills
We hope that at this point in Learning to change, you are prepared to accept the argument that learning is vitally important to how we live our lives and that learning will be involved in any change we make. It could, to borrow a phrase from Jarvis, act as a stimulus to change. In other words it is possible to learn things that make us want to change or make it possible for us to change. Equally, learning is likely to result from any change that occurs.
This section really begins the process of encouraging you to see how you can, to quote Jarvis (2006, p. 16), transform and integrate the experiences that you have in order to bring about change. We are going to suggest that your unique combination of personal qualities, knowledge and skills is the key. Let’s take each of these in turn.
A quality is quite difficult to explain. One way is to think about the words that you might use to describe someone. These could be words like ‘kind’ or ‘generous’ (which are examples of positive qualities) or ‘deceitful’ or ‘untrustworthy’ (which are negative qualities).
Knowledge is what you know. At a basic level this can be information about a particular topic. For example, a plumber would know a lot about different taps and bathroom fittings. The same plumber might also be self-employed and know a great deal about tax forms. They might have worked in a particular geographical area and may know that area very well. The point here is that the mix of what anyone knows is highly individual to them. It depends, to a great extent, on the experiences that they have had in their lives.
Skills are the things that you can do. These might include things like being able to ride a bike or cook a meal. Generally it is possible to see when someone is using a skill like this. But there are many different sorts of skills. It is possible to talk about interpersonal skills such as being a ‘good’ listener, for example. When someone talks to another person, we might be able to see them using body language which suggests that they have a genuine concern for the other person. It may even be possible to hear them talking and realise that they are skilled in how they use their tone of voice. There are other skills that are important for successful academic study that may be far more difficult to observe in action. These include many of the academic skills that we discussed in Section 1.
None of these is fixed. They can all expand; they continue to change over the course of our life. But it is important to begin to establish for yourself as clear an idea as possible of what your qualities are, where you are particularly knowledgeable and what skills you can use. You might ask why it is important to develop your self-awareness in these areas. There are a number of reasons. To begin with, it means that you are working from the positive assumption that the qualities, knowledge and skills that you already possess are valuable. This positive assumption of value has important implications. If you believe this, you are more likely to feel confident and positive about yourself than if you think they are of limited value. If you value them in this way, you will probably see them as something worth nurturing and developing. There is the added bonus that the more you believe in your unique combination of qualities, knowledge and skills, the more likely it is that other people will believe in them too.