1.5 Study Skills, Other Skills

You will find many references to skills in this course. Before we explain how we will be using this word, we would like you to think about what you understand is meant by skills.

Figure 1.4 Cooking skills can be gained in many ways, at any age
Figure 1.4 Cooking skills can be gained in many ways, at any age

Activity 1.2: What’s in a Word—Skills?

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes for this activity.

Spend a few moments thinking about what you associate with the word skills. Write down as quickly as possible what you connect this word with. There are no right or wrong answers; we just want you to put your ideas down.


As with many of the activities in this course, we have no way of knowing what your answer might include.  You may have said something like “abilities” or “doing things to a high standard,” or you may have identified particular skills such as “driving,” “cooking,” or “writing.”  

The problem with the word skills is that it can be, and is, used in very many different ways. This might be the case in your response to Activity 1.2. The word “skills” is sometimes connected with something that we are good at doing. We might say that someone is a skilled football player or cook. This, in turn, may be connected with work. We might need particular skills to do a certain type of work. Some jobs need specialized skills; for example, the skills required to work as a brain surgeon are very different from those needed to work as an airline pilot. Beyond this, there is the idea that some skills are needed in most jobs; for example, both the brain surgeon and the pilot need to be able to communicate with other people. These skills are sometimes called transferable skills because you can use them in many different settings

In Learning to Learn, we want you to think about the skills you have already, the skills you want to develop, and, in particular, the skills you might use as a student. The course aims to develop your confidence your existing skills and in new skills that are useful for successful study. Learning to Learn focuses on two broad sets of skills:

  • The first set comprises the skills used on a daily basis in the “real world” outside academic study. Since there are many of these, we have decided to focus on three important skills:
    • Communication skills.
    • Problem solving skills.
    • Organizational skills.
  • In this course, we will refer to these as everyday or real-world skills.
  • The second set of skills includes the skills that are more associated with studying. In this course, these are:
    • Reading.
    • Note-taking.
    • Writing.
    • Selecting and using evidence.
    • Evaluating ideas (including your own plans) and theories, including information found on the Web.
    • Thinking about your own learning (reflection).
  • In this course, we will refer to these as academic skills.

It looks neat and tidy to have these two sets of skills listed in this way, but doing this can cause problems. Calling the first set real-world or everyday skills and the second set academic skills might imply that the real world and study are completely separate from each other. This is not actually the case—however, many people do see the real and the academic worlds as being completely different from each other, which can discourage them from participating in academic study. The separate lists might also imply that real-world and academic study use different skills. This can reinforce the belief that academic skills are of little or no value in the real world.

In this course we really want you to question whether everyday skills and academic skills are completely different. We also want you to ask yourself if academic skills might be helpful in the “real world.”

We think that many everyday skills can be useful for becoming a successful student and that academic skills can have useful applications in everyday life. Being able to use academic skills in the real world can help you get used to being a student and to see this role as part of who you are.

In the next section of the course we will focus on a skill that is valuable both for academic study and for many aspects of living in the real world—using the Internet for research. You will learn how to evaluate the information you find on the World Wide Web and will make a start on completing your first challenge (should you wish to do so).

1.4.1 Formal and Informal Learning

1.5.1 Evaluating Information on the Web