Don’t Confuse Learning Skills with Learning Strategies

children-learningLearning skills refer to the skills that make learning possible.

There is a tendency nowadays to confuse the word skill with related concepts like strategy, method, and technique. Many people, when talking about “learning skills,” actually mean learning strategies, or learning methods, or learning techniques.

Let us first look at the origin of especially the words skill and strategy. This will provide us with a clear clue toward the inherent connotations of the two concepts.

The word skill derives from the Old Norse word skil, which means “knowledge”. Modern Icelandic still has the word skilja, which means “to know”. In modern English, the word skill refers specifically to the “ability that comes from knowledge, practice, aptitude etc., to do something well”, or to a “competent excellence in performance, execution, workmanship, the practice of an art, etc.”

On the other hand, the word strategy derives from the Greek word stratos = army, and the word agein = lead. Strategy therefore refers to the way in which the general leads his army in order to best exploit the fighting skills which the soldiers have already previously acquired through constant practice and training. In the learning situation this would refer to the most effective ways, techniques, or methods that the learner can employ the skills of learning which he has previously acquired through practice and training. This further implies that learning strategies cannot be employed successfully if the child or adult lacks learning skills, just like soldiers cannot employ strategies if they lack fighting skills.

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