Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

What is Skill? (and why does it matter?).

McDermott, Roger; Daniels, Mats


Mats Daniels


This Research-to-Practice Full Paper seeks to investigate the concept of Skill within a Competency Framework, such as that described by the CC2020 document. The notion of skill is fundamental to modern educational discourse. As educators, we strive, not only to impart knowledge, but to help students acquire the skills that they need to flourish in the modern academic and professional environments. We admire skillful practitioners and strive to become more skilled at what we do, recognising that skill is tied to an aesthetic sense - that there is something attractive and deeply satisfying about the process and output of skillful practice. Together with knowledge and disposition, the term is also used to denote one of the constituent components of competence. In computing, for example, the CC2020 document proposes curricular development models which promote skills as key ontological elements and emphasises skill acquisition as a major focus in the educational process. While this is undoubtedly an important, evolutionary development in discipline-based pedagogical practice, we feel that there are still foundational questions to be asked about precisely what is meant by definitional terms that form the core vocabulary of this approach. In this paper, we look at the notion of skill and provide a conceptual analysis which tries to distinguish it from other related ideas. We provide an overview of how skill has been seen historically as both a philosophical and sociological construct and what this means for using the term in educational theory. We examine how to usefully define skill, discuss the part it plays in teaching and assessment, and make recommendations for how it can be viewed operationally within a competency framework, such as that proposed by CC2020.


MCDERMOTT, R. and DANIELS, M. 2023. What is skill? (and why does it matter?). In Proceedings of the 2023 IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Frontiers in education conference (FIE 2023), 18-21 October 2023, College Station, TX, USA. Piscataway: IEEE [online], article 10343520. Available from:

Conference Name 2023 IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Frontiers in education conference (FIE 2023)
Conference Location College Station, TX, USA
Start Date Oct 18, 2023
End Date Oct 21, 2023
Acceptance Date Jun 12, 2023
Online Publication Date Dec 31, 2023
Publication Date Dec 31, 2023
Deposit Date Feb 1, 2024
Publicly Available Date Feb 1, 2024
Publisher Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)
Series ISSN 2377-634X
Keywords Competency model; Knowledge; Skill acquisition; Demonstration
Public URL


MCDERMOTT 2023 What is skill (AAM) (688 Kb)

Copyright Statement
© 2023 IEEE. Personal use of this material is permitted. Permission from IEEE must be obtained for all other uses, in any current or future media, including reprinting/republishing this material for advertising or promotional purposes, creating new collective works, for resale or redistribution to servers or lists, or reuse of any copyrighted component of this work in other works.

You might also like

Downloadable Citations