Learning Generalization is Key in a Rapidly Changing World

Knowledge is power? Not anymore. Skills, not knowledge, stand at the forefront of learning in our quickly evolving world. Having skills in literacy, and being able to generalize those skills, is no longer an ideal – it is a necessity.

Literacy empowers people


For learners of any age and situation, having the basic literacy skills of effective reading, writing, listening, speaking and viewing means having the tools not only to experience the world far beyond their immediate limits but to influence and control their role in it.

When I moved to a foreign country for the first time, I was completely illiterate in its language. I found myself in the middle of the city somewhere, feeling helpless, hopeless and very confused. But I had the basic literacy skills that 750 million people around the world still don’t have, I could read and write.

Learning to read and problem-solve in my own language allowed me to develop in my new language. My literacy skills helped me to piece together the meanings of signs and sounds that I had never seen before. By being able to generalize, I gained autonomy. I no longer needed help to buy a bus ticket or the correct vegetables at the market. I had the power. And it should be our goal to ensure that all people are empowered in the same way.

What can we do?

Some strategies for promoting skills generalization are:literacy empowers people 2

  • Give implicit instructions/explanations– exposure to examples is not enough for many students. Teaching explicit rules removes the guesswork and allows students to more confidently generalize their learning to other contexts.
  • Model & role-play skills– demonstrating and having students practice the skills they have just learned in a variety of scenarios and role-plays not only forces them to use their skills right away but can often incorporate total physical response (Asher, J. 1973).
  • Set challenging goals– when a student has a skill down pat in one context, Skills Generalizationhave them apply it to a more challenging one until they feel comfortable in any situation.

A skills-based approach will encourage learners to engage in a broad range of texts and contexts and empower them not only to understand but to act on what they find in the world outside our classrooms.

Written by: Ashley Emmerton