Abilities and Skills


Vladimir Romanenko and Galina Nikitina

St. Petersburg Branch of the Academy of Information Technologies in Education


Sergei Abramovich

State University of New York at Potsdam


The process of educating professionals deals with two major tasks: the development of knowledge and expertise, and the acquisition of new abilities and skills. In reality, knowledge and skills constitute a robust pair. Knowledge is meaningless without skills and their utilization. On the other hand, skills are not useful in the absence of informational background; that is, in the absence of knowledge. There are many examples of such dual pairs: information and its bearer, soul and body, to name just a few. We believe that the development of the taxonomy of skills is an important educational task.


A creative person, a professional, and just an individual can be characterized by skills that he or she possesses. In that regard, skills can be deemed as an individual characteristic. In general, the sum of all skills coupled with the knowledge kit is unique although the kit itself is limited. All individual skills can be separated into two distinct but related groups. The first group consists of skills pertaining to the professional activity, in particular to the process of learning. Below, these skills will be referred to as content-specific skills. The second group consists of skills pertaining to personal and psychological abilities of an individual. Those skills will be referred to as intrapersonal skills.


Both content-specific and intrapersonal skills have different levels of complexity. This implies that the skills can be divided into subgroups. Content-specific skills can be divided into three levels: higher-order skills, professional skills and basic skills (Romanenko and Nikitina). Levels of inrapersonal skills are indistinguishable. Yet, one may talk about higher and lower levels of those skills. However, it is useful to consider three levels of intrapersonal skills. Generally speaking, for both types of skills the division into levels stems from the same attributes.


Skills of all the three levels vary over the time span. Two factors that depend on time can be identified. The first is the maturation - a factor that can be associated with an individual development, educational growth, acquisition of experience, etc. The second factor deals with the development of society; that is, it is linked to such socio-cultural phenomena as technological development and emergence of new knowledge. This factor can be referred to as an evolution. The first factor is impermanent and repeating, the second factor is slow and non-reversal. In addition, special skills are more subject to changes than individual skills over the time span.


With the maturation special skills that pertain to professional and basic levels vary most vigorously. One can split all skills into skills of different age groups: elementary school, middle school, college-bound students, undergraduates, and finally graduates - a novice professional. In such a way, the skills of each group reveal at different levels of individual activity. At all levels of activity professional skills pertained to a higher and basic levels are of interdisciplinary nature and in that sense those skills can be considered as generic skills (Usova). Individual skills are of interdisciplinary nature and in that sense they are essentially generic. It should be noted that many skills related to different levels of special skills become a basis for the skills of an individual group. Converse statement is also true.


To be continued