Global Skills and the Classroom

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Introduction

Education has long embraced the notion of reasoning and thinking skills in the classroom. Bloom’s renowned taxonomy and hierarchy of thinking skills was first proposed in 1956 with the aim of assisting educators in curriculum design. However, don’t students need a broader and more global set of skills, in addition to thinking skills, for their real lives?

Yes! An increasingly common paradigm in syllabus or curriculum design is the inclusion of ‘Global Skills’ (similar to ‘Soft Skills’ or ‘Life Skills’) alongside the conventional educational subjects taught in the classroom. The term refers to the multitude of life-enhancing skills that learners require to navigate through the different aspects of their real life. It is quite an expansive term as the skills apply to almost every part of a student’s life – to their entire world, in fact – from their studies or future career to citizenship, relationships and self-management. Whilst Global Skills are not as easy to compartmentalize as other skills, such as ‘reading skills’ or ‘reading for gist’, they can be grouped into four main sets: Thinking, Learning, Working and Social.

The Four Global Skills: Thinking, Learning, Working and Social

The terms used for each of these four groups are immediately comprehensible in both their meaning and application to students’ real lives. Compare this to Bloom’s taxonomy which was revised in 2001 with the aim of making the group names more user-friendly. The revised names are (in basic to advanced order): Remember, Understand, Apply, Analyze, Evaluate, and Create. These terms still have a somewhat opaque quality and are not immediately accessible for busy teachers and curriculum designers.

So, returning to the four identified Global Skills, clarity of purpose and usage is paramount in skills. For example, no further explanation is required to comprehend that Thinking Skills apply to mental processing and reasoning, Learning Skills apply to studying, Working Skills apply to employment and Social Skills apply to relationships and citizenship. This immediately makes the skills easier to place in a curriculum or to use as the basis of a one-off lesson.

1) Thinking Skills *

This group relates to the skills used in mental processing and reasoning. It goes without saying that this is a quintessential skill and will help our students to navigate the ever-changing world. Examples of this type of skill include analysing information, using imagination, thinking critically, making decisions and solving problems.

Activate your students’ Thinking Skills with tasks such as:

  • Brainstorm anything and everything they know about the topic of a reading or listening before they read or listen
  • Read and summarize the key points of an article and the overall attitude or viewpoint of the writer
  • Listen to part of an interview and predict what the remaining content will be and/or think of interesting questions to ask the interviewee.

Activities in Speak Your Mind encourage learners to consider other points of view, think things through, and then express their own ideas and solutions, equipping learners with the skills not just to survive, but to thrive and achieve their goals in life.

2) Learning Skills

As the name states, these skills relate to studying; whether that’s pursuing a new interest or following an academic path. In these contexts, useful skills range from numeracy and literacy to learner autonomy and adaptability, and also apply to more specific knowledge like Information Communication Technology (ICT).

Activate your students’ Learning Skills with tasks such as:

  • Preparing a presentation with slides and separate speaker notes and giving the presentation whilst looking at the audience
  • Adopting effective time management techniques through prioritization, minimising distraction and discussing challenges with peers
  • Improve reading speed by using a finger to vertically track down the lines on the page, reading ‘chunks’ of text at one time and reading for pleasure.

3) Working Skills

Once again, the name of this group shows that these skills relate to the world of employment. The vast majority of our students will be in employment at the time of studying or will be in future years, so the relevance to students is immediate and great. For any field of employment, students will benefit from skills such as collaboration, communication, organisation and teamwork.

Activate your students’ Working Skills with tasks such as:

  • Working together to research a specific job or industry to compare with similar (or different) jobs and industries
  • Using context-appropriate language and communication strategies to initiate and maintain conversations
  • Role plays involving different professional interactions and contexts, such as consumer to customer representative, job applicant to interviewers, or employee to manager.

4) Social Skills*

This final group, like Thinking Skills, is applicable and enriching to almost all aspects of a student’s life. Social Skills assist with self-development as well as citizenship at a local and global level. These skills include developing independence and being responsible, and challenging stereotypes and improving cultural awareness.

Activate your students’ Social Skills with tasks such as:

  • Explaining and discussing environmental issues that affect the planet locally and globally
  • Learning about the traditional food and eating habits of other countries and cultures
  • Identifying good interpersonal communication skills and then practising these skills.

*Note that Thinking Skills and Social Skills have, arguably, a more universal application than Learning Skills and Working Skills. Whereas the latter two skillsets apply to more specific contexts, Thinking Skills and Social Skills are relevant and applicable to academic situations and professional environments as well as almost any social context or social interaction. There is great dexterity and possibility with these skillsets.

Summary

Global Skills are an inherent part of learning and life and therefore warrant inclusion and promotion in the classroom. The four areas identified here will serve to complement and extend the academic or linguistic content of our lessons and curriculum. In fact, the use and development of any one of these skillsets will, in turn, contribute to the development of the others and will therefore produce a more confident and able student – and citizen. Global Skills offer unlimited potential for the skill holder in their present and future lives. Our overarching aim as educators is always to facilitate learning and enable students to achieve their potential. Global Skills will make that difference.

References

Anderson, L.W. and Krathwohl, D. (Editors) A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: a revision of Bloom's taxonomy of educational objectives. Longman, 2001.

Bloom, B.S. (1956) Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: The Cognitive Domain. David McKay, New York.

About the writer

Rhona Snelling is an ELT teacher, editor, and author. She qualified with International House and has extensive experience teaching in Europe and New Zealand. She has worked as a content editor for two leading ELT publishers, and has a Master's degree in Applied Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition from the University of Oxford. Rhona has authored numerous ELT courses including Speak Your Mind and Gateway to the world A1+ workbook.

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