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What is the difference between skill and knowledge-based learning?

by Emily Gorsky

Gaining knowledge and putting it into practice is fundamental to learning, and the most effective way to learn is to build upon what you already know. Traditionally, education has followed the path to greater knowledge, but as skill gaps emerge, teachers must find new ways to address them.

Most educators today advocate for greater balance between knowledge and skills-based learning. But to teach effectively, it’s essential to understand the differences between these two methods. It’s also important to know how to implement them in a way that most benefits students.

Knowledge-based learning vs skills-based learning

Knowledge is the theoretical understanding of something, which is acquired through lectures and textbooks. Knowledge-based learning, therefore, refers to reading, listening, and watching to obtain the information needed before progressing to the next stage of learning.

Skills can be acquired by doing, and the best way to master something is through regular practise or trial and error. Skill-based learning aims to build upon knowledge by developing practical expertise in a particular area.

As an example, a carpenter requires the background knowledge of how to measure and read blueprints, before starting a project. This can help with a range of projects, but it’s not enough on its own. A carpenter also needs to develop skills to carry out specific tasks, such as crafting a kitchen cabinet or making a coffee table. 

As you can see from this example, having knowledge about something does not make you skilled in it—likewise, being skilled at something does not mean you have all the required knowledge to excel at it.

The carpentry example offers a very clear-cut distinction between these two learning methods. When it comes to early childhood teaching, such as in primary schools, skills-based learning aims to build upon the knowledge a student has gained in the classroom. This combination of knowledge-based and skills-based learning will help transform learners into independent thinkers and prepare them for challenges they may face in the future.

Why is skills-based learning important?

Skills-based education is essential for a few reasons:

  1. It promotes greater independence
    Students who learn through skills-based instruction are more likely to think at a higher level and solve problems on their own. This is important, particularly for primary school children who are being introduced to new ideas and concepts every day. Children at this age are just beginning to make connections between what they have been told and what they have experienced.
  2. It increases learning speed
    Students learn much faster when there are multiple ways for them to absorb information. Using a skill-based approach can further develop what they already know and help them grasp concepts quicker.
  3. Provides real-world experience
    Children have little real-world experience, which makes teaching theoretical subjects more challenging. By creating lessons that engage their reality, that they can experience and build upon, they will be able to catch on a lot faster.

Although the importance of a skill-based curriculum cannot be understated, knowledge is still a crucial foundation for students to be able to apply their skills and understand the broader reasoning behind what they are learning and why.

Understanding learning methodologies for early childhood education

There is a lot more you can understand about learning methodologies to make an impact on young learners. For example, what the characteristics of competency-based training is, what is meant by life skill education and much more. 

If you want to learn more, are interested in mentoring future generations and working with young children, then a career in childhood education might be your calling. Open Colleges’ courses in childhood education will provide you with the perfect foundation for starting your career in this field.

Visit the Early Childhood Education and Care course page now where you’ll find a selection of nationally recognised courses, including CHC50113 Diploma of Early Childhood Education and Care. These courses will give you both the knowledge and skills you need to start a career in the growing and highly rewarding early childcare sector.

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