What are craft skills? A brief overview.

By Gordon Rugg

Craft skills are not the same as crafts, although the two concepts are related.

The term “craft” usually relates to a set of practical knowledge about a manual skill, such as basket making or carpentry.

The term “craft skills” originally related to specific pieces of practical knowledge within a craft, but is now often used in a broader sense, to describe any specific pieces of knowledge that are viewed as too low level to be worth including in an academic body of knowledge.

For instance, an academic course on research methods probably wouldn’t include specific information about the best way of typing in data from a paper questionnaire into a spreadsheet. That information would usually be viewed as a craft skill, easily (and often better) learnt via practical experience, or via informal guidance from a mentor while using the craft skill.

That’s the usual view of craft skills. However, there has been a recent growth of interest in craft skills, and particularly in academic craft skills, which has discovered that craft skills are more important for academic learning than was previously assumed. This is particularly relevant to the concept of transferable skills, where the reality turns out to be more complex and problematic than is generally assumed.

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