March 09, 2010 04:00 ET

Electricians Are as Intelligent as Merchant Bankers

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM--(Marketwire - March 9, 2010) - Electricians and care-workers are as intelligent as professors and merchant bankers, claims a new report.

According to the Bodies of Knowledge report from the Centre for Real-World Learning (CRL) at the University of Winchester, treating practical and vocational educated individuals as 'intellectually second rate' has no basis in science. Practising a vocation is as demanding of intelligence, ingenuity, flexibility and social skills as any profession.

Commissioned by independent education foundation Edge, the report proves that it is wrong to distinguish between "academic" and "practical" learning in the simplistic way that the educational system currently does.

Drawing on cognitive science and neuroscience, Bodies of Knowledge determines what it takes to become an expert in any line of work and demonstrates that the mind and body work together to develop knowledge, understanding and skill. An example cited in the report is that a mechanic working out how to fix an engine uses similar thought processes to a doctor making a medical diagnosis.

The authors have developed a new framework of learning and conclude that anyone who wants to become expert in their field will need to use the same habits and frames of mind.

The four habits of mind are:

  • Investigating
  • Experimenting
  • Reasoning and
  • Imagining

While the six frames of mind are:

  • Curiosity
  • Determination
  • Resourcefulness
  • Sociability
  • Reflection and
  • Wisdom

Professor Guy Claxton, one of the report's authors, explains: "Recent scientific understanding has shown us that mind and body work together as a single, coherent, intelligent system. Human intelligence involves gestures, emotions, intuitions, and physical manipulation. Children's gestures can show deeper understanding than their verbal explanations, for example. It is no coincidence that philosophers often think better and actors learn their lines better when they are pacing about."

The real-world implications of this new research into how we learn is powerful according to report co-author Professor Bill Lucas: "Until now, people have hardly even tried to describe the kinds of intelligence displayed by the expert plumber, carer or gardener. But in reality, intelligence of any kind is bound up with character traits like curiosity and determination, and involves old-fashioned qualities like 'common sense' and 'gumption' – which apply just as much to so-called academic learning as they do to vocational learning."

Lucas and Claxton offer a powerful new way of talking and thinking about all kinds of learning for the real-world and show that the same language can be used to describe all forms of learning.

David Harbourne, director of research for Edge, said: "In this country, debates about education are dominated by three measures of achievement – five good GSCEs, A level results and degrees. Important as they are, however, these qualifications are based largely on what people know, and how well they write. They say little about what people can do.

"There are many paths to success and learning by doing is just as valuable as learning by listening and reading. No-one becomes a graceful dancer or a world-class runner by reading and listening alone. They dance – they run. The same goes for dairy farmers and airline pilots: they need a lot of knowledge, for sure – but they also need hands-on experience of milking cows and flying planes.

"If we can get this message across more widely, we can challenge the old idea that academic learning is always superior to practical and vocational learning. Because it's not true: we need to value both types of learning equally."

Notes to Editors

1. Bodies of Knowledge; how the learning sciences could transform practical and vocational education and its companion report, Mind the gap; research and reality in practical and vocational education will be launched on Tuesday 9 March. Taken together these two reports, commissioned by Edge from the Centre for Real-World Learning, offer an authoritative and comprehensive review of the current research relating to practical and vocational education.

2. The Centre for Real-World Learning at the University of Winchester – www.winchester.ac.uk/realworldlearning was founded in September 2008. It is co-directed by Professor Bill Lucas and Professor Guy Claxton, two widely-respected researchers and thinkers.

3. Edge is an independent education foundation. It is dedicated to raising the stature of practical and vocational learning, so that all young people have the opportunity to achieve their potential, and the UK's future workforce is equipped with the skills to be successful in the modern economy. Edge believes that 'learning by doing' is as important as academic learning, and that there are many paths to success. For more information visit www.edge.co.uk.

Contact Information

  • Band & Brown Communications
    Sarah Davidson or Zoe Penn
    020 7419 6950
    edgeteam@ bbpr.com


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