Thinking Skills vs. Doing Skills

Commenting on Scoble’s post about the apparent shift to commercial skills-based education in Universities where he questions the role of a university. Mike over at Searching, Searching, Searching comments and asks:

Don’t we need the skills to THINK through the problem?

I wonder whether a mix of the two is not the best solution. Of course it depends on what it is your studying. Not everyone in university is studying in areas that involve rapidly changing information.

That being said, here’s my experience:

I earned a university degree in structural engineering, and have been a practising professional engineer for almost 10 years.

After graduating, I worked full time in construction for about a year and a half (which I have on and off since I was 16) and finally found a structural engineering position.

I also teach a structural design course and a construction methods course at a local college part time. So I have seen both the University and College side of things.

I found that my university training, while giving me the theoretical background and ‘thinking’ tools, left me at the bottom rung when it came to real-life, real-world experience. It was my construction experience which saved me in this regard, not the degree. This practical experience coupled with the education gives you a leg up on others when it comes to solving problems and providing quality design work in my opinion.

I think that while Universities should concentrate on developing the ‘thinking‘, they shouldn’t forget about the actual ‘doing‘ either. They could use a shot of practicality in my view (Co-op programs are a great start but only available in some programs.).

Likewise, I think Colleges should put some more emphasis on developing the ‘thinking‘ skills. I try to impart those in the courses I teach, but make no mistake, it’s all about delivering the goods, in the right quantity, in the allotted time. I make time to discuss the why’s and not only the how’s, but I can’t necessarily say the same for other instructors.

Clearly universities and colleges could both do with a little change.

4 Responses to “Thinking Skills vs. Doing Skills”

  1. Achile Says:

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  2. mike s Says:

    Good point. You voiced the solution a lot better than I did. I agree, some DOING needs to be taught as well – or the lesson won’t stick – but you stated quite well that the THINKING part needs some more emphasis. Thanks for sharing your thoughts (and the link).

  3. Kate Says:

    Thinking and doing…hmmm.

    Reminds me of something that I can turn into a post! 😉

  4. RichardQuerin Says:

    Hey Kate,

    You go girl!


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