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Listening

The receiving, retaining and processing of information or ideas
This skill is all about being able to effectively receive information - whether it comes from customers, colleagues or stakeholders.

Initially, the skill steps concentrate on being able to listen effectively to others - including remembering short instructions, understanding why others are communication and recording important information.

Individuals then focus on how they demonstrate that they are listening effectively, thinking about body language, open questioning and summarising and rephrasing.

Beyond that, the focus is on being aware of how they might be being influenced by a speaker, through tone and language.

The final steps are about critical listening - comparing perspectives, identifying biases, evaluating ideas and being objective.

Speaking

The oral transmission of information or ideas
This skill is all about how to communicate effectively with others, being mindful of whether they are talking to customers, colleagues or other stakeholders and in different settings.

Initially, this skill focuses on being able to speak clearly - first with well known individuals and small groups and then with those who are not known.

The next stage is about being an effective speaker by making points logically, by thinking about what listeners already know and using appropriate language, tone and gesture.

Beyond that, individuals focus on speaking engagingly through use of facts and examples, visual aids, and their expression and gesture.

Beyond that stage, speakers will be adaptive to the response of their listeners and ready for different scenarios. The final steps focus on speaking influentially - using structure, examples, facts and vision to persuade listeners.

Problem Solving

The ability to find a solution to a situation or challenge
This skill focuses on how to solve problems, recognising that while part of Problem Solving is technical know-how and experience, there are also transferable tools that individuals can develop and use.

The first steps focus on being able to follow instructions to complete tasks, seeking help and extra information if needed. The next stage focuses on being able to explore problems by creating and assessing different potential solutions. This includes more complex problems, without a simple technical solution.

Beyond this, the focus is on exploring complex solutions - thinking about causes and effects, generating options, and evaluating those options. This extends into analysis using logical reasoning and hypotheses.

Finally, individuals implement strategic plans to solve complex problems, assess their success, and draw out learning for the future.

Creativity

The use of imagination and the generation of new ideas
Creativity is the complement to Problem Solving, and is about generating innovations or ideas which can then be honed through the problem-solving process.

The first few steps focus on the individual's confidence in imagining different situations and sharing their ideas.

The focus is then on generating ideas - using a clear brief, making improvements to something that already exists and combining concepts.

Individuals then apply creativity in the context of their work and their wider life. They can build off this to develop ideas using tools like mind mapping, questioning, and considering different perspectives.

The most advanced steps focus on building effective innovation in group settings and by seeking out varied experiences and stimuli. Finally, individuals support others to innovate, by sharing tools, identifying the right tools for the situation and through coaching.

Staying Positive

The ability to use tactics and strategies to overcome setbacks and achieve goals
This skill is all about individuals being equipped to manage their emotions effectively and being able to remain motivated, and ultimately to motivate others, even when facing setbacks.

The early steps focus on identifying emotions - particularly feeling positive or negative. Building off that is the ability to keep trying - and then staying calm, thinking about what went wrong, and trying to cheer up and encourage others.

The focus then turns to identifying new opportunities in difficult situations, sharing those, and adapting or creating plans accordingly. At more advanced steps, individuals identify and manage risks and gains in opportunities.

Finally, individuals support others to stay positive by managing their own response, helping others to see opportunities and creating plans to achieve them.

Aiming High

The ability to set clear, tangible goals and devise a robust route to achieving them
This skill is about being able to plan effectively - both to achieve organisational goals, and also to set their own personal development targets. Initially, this is about knowing when something is too difficult, and having a sense of what doing well looks like for an individual.

The focus is then about working with care and attention, taking pride in success and having a positive approach to new challenges. Building on this, individuals set goals for themselves, informed by an understanding of what is needed, and then be able to order and prioritise tasks, secure resources and involve others effectively.

At the higher steps, the focus is creating plans informed by an individual's skill set, with clear targets, and building on external views. At the most advanced level, individuals develop long-term strategies. These are informed by an assessment of internal and external factors, structured through regular milestones and feedback loops.

Leadership

Supporting, encouraging and developing others to achieve a shared goal
This skill is relevant not only for individuals in positions of management with formal power, but also for individuals working with peers in teams.

At the earliest stages, the focus is on basic empathy - understanding their own feelings, being able to share them, and recognising the feelings of others. The focus is on managing - dividing up tasks, managing time and sharing resources, managing group discussions and dealing with disagreements.

Beyond that, individuals build their awareness of their own strengths and weaknesses, and those of their teams. This allows them to allocate tasks effectively. They then build techniques to mentor, coach and motivate others. At the highest steps, individuals will be able to reflect on their own leadership style and understand its effect on others.

Ultimately, they should be able to build on their strengths and mitigate their weaknesses, and adapt their leadership style to the situation.

Teamwork

Working cooperatively with others towards achieving a shared goal
This skill applies to working within both formal and informal teams, and also with customers, clients or other stakeholders. Initially, this is about individuals fulfilling expectations around being positive, behaving appropriately, being timely and reliable and taking responsibility. This extends to understanding and respecting diversity of others' cultures, beliefs and backgrounds.

The next steps focus on making a contribution to a team through group decision making recognising the value of others' ideas and encourage others to contribute too.Beyond that, individuals improve their teams through managing conflict and building relationships beyond the immediate team. At the top steps, individuals focus on how they influence their team through suggesting improvements and learning lessons from setbacks.

Ultimately, individuals support the team by evaluating others strengths and weaknesses and bringing in external expertise and relationships.

To achieve Step 3, individuals will be able to make points in a logical order when speaking so that a listener can follow and understand the meaning of what is said. 

In earlier steps, individuals focused on how to speak clearly, so that the words they were saying could be understood. The shift now is to focus on the meaning of their communication – particularly ensuring that the points they are making are in a logical order.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • What we mean by putting things in a logical order, and why it matters
  • Some approaches to putting things in a logical order

Reflection questions

  • What do we mean by putting ideas in a logical order?
  • Why does it matter?
  • How do you think you can put things in a logical order?
  • Do you do this at the moment? Could you try it?

What you need to know

What is meant by 'logical order'?

A logical order is putting ideas in an order that means they make sense when they follow on from each other.

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The difference between logical and random ordering

The contrast is putting lots of ideas into a random order. 

  • For example, “British history has spanned the Romans, Saxons, Vikings, Medieval period…” puts historical periods into a logical order. In contrast “British history has spanned Victorians, Tudors, Romans, Saxons, Georgians…” is much harder to follow because there is no sequence.
  • As another example, “The chicken lays the egg, which hatches into a chick, and then grows up to become a chicken” puts a cycle into a natural pattern. In contrast “An egg makes a chick which was made first by a chicken, and then the chick becomes a chicken too” is somewhat harder to follow.
  • As another example, “First take the screw and place it in the hole. Then take the screwdriver and place it on the top of the screw. Then screw clockwise to tighten.” The alternative being “You screw clockwise with the screwdriver once it’s in the top. You want to put the screw in the hole first.”
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Why logical ordering matters

When speaking for longer, the importance of putting ideas into a logical order is even greater. If ideas are not in a logical order, it is difficult for a listener to understand what is said, and to be able to process and remember what they are hearing. The meaning that the speaker was trying to communicate gets lost.

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How to put things in a logical order

There are three main ways of arranging ideas logically:

  • Talking about causes and effects: Making a clear connection between how one thing led to another.
  • Putting things in the order in which they happen: Putting events in the order that they occurred, also known as chronological order, makes it easier for them to remember and retell the story.
  • Starting from the most straightforward idea: Thinking about what someone needs to understand to understand the meaning of what is being said, then beginning with the most straightforward idea and building up from there.
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Advice for

Educators

Teaching It

To teach this step:

  • The teacher can model to learners what it looks like to speak without any logical order. For example, the teacher could retell a historical event in a random order, or introduce a new topic without reference to anything learners have heard before. The teacher can use this to elicit from the learners what the effect is on them when there is no logical order in what they are hearing, how it made them feel and what they can recall. 
  • Then, the teacher can model to learners what it looks like to introduce a logical order and how that can support recall and linking new knowledge to existing knowledge. 
  • Learners can then be encouraged to explicitly think about how to put ideas into a logical order. For example, by giving instructions, talking about an event that happened to them, or explaining a sequence or cycle that they have learnt. Depending on the maturity of learners, they might be given feedback from a peer about whether they put things in a logical order when they were speaking. 

Reinforcing it

This step is good to practice in the classroom. Although the focus in this step is on speaking, logical ordering of ideas is useful in written work too.

  • When asking for explanations from an individual, the teacher can remind learners of what it means to give a logical response and how a logical answer looks.
  • The teacher can also explicitly model how they are putting ideas in a logical sequence when they are teaching themselves
  • Learners can also reinforce their learning by practising giving explanations to one another 

Assessing it 

This step can be assessed through observation of speaking or a structured activity. For example:

  • Asking learners to talk about an event, create instructions for completing a task, or explain a concept. 
  • Testing whether learners can put things into a logical order using: causes and effects; the order in which things happened; building up ideas from the most straightforward to the most complex.

Build this step

Advice for

Employers

Build it at work: 

This step will be relevant to everyone who uses verbal communication often in their work, especially those who regularly offer explanations or instructions. 

To build this step in the work environment, managers could:

  • Discuss with an individual when it would be important for them to arrange their thoughts into a logical order. This can help an individual to identify how frequently they should be applying the skill step.
  • Explain the effect of putting their thoughts into a logical order using examples taken from the individuals, demonstrating it in their speaking.
  • Model speaking in a random order and then repeat in a logical order. This can help an individual to see how logically ordering ideas helps to support effective speech. 
  • Set an exercise to show how the techniques support effective speech when speaking with a group and an individual. Try each of the three main approaches to logical ordering: causes and effects; chronological ordering; starting with the simplest ideas. 
  • Reflect with the individual about where they could look to see good approaches to logical speech in practice. 

Practising it:

There are plenty of opportunities for building this skill in the workplace:

  • Working with colleagues: During various stages in a team project, when working with others to fulfil requests or work through a problem. This is also an important part of presenting to others. 
  • Working with customers or clients: When working with customers or clients to provide guidance or achieve an outcome.

Reviewing it:

For those already employed, this step is best assessed through observation and questioning.
For instance:

  • Observing the individual and third party discussing an issue to check how well they can present their points in a logical order.  
  • Observing the individual giving a presentation to a wider group.  

Spotting it in recruitment: 

During the recruitment process, this step could be assessed by:

  • Observing the individual during a presentation exercise to check whether an individual is able to make points in a logical order.
  • Observing the individual during a team activity to see whether they can discuss their views in a logical order.

Build this step

Advice for

Organisations

We work with a wide range of organisations, who use the Skills Builder approach in lots of different settings – from youth clubs, to STEM organisations, to careers and employability providers.

We have a lot of materials available to support you to use the Skills Builder Universal Framework with the individuals you work with, including:

  • Tools for self-reflection
  • Materials to support you to teach the skills, if appropriate in your setting
  • Reward systems like printable certificates

We also do a lot of work with organisations who join the Skills Builder Partnership to build the Universal Framework into their work and impact measurement systems. You can find out a lot more using the links below.

More resources

Advice for

Individuals

Why this skill step matters in education

In education, we often have to present or discuss our work to others in the group, we may have to make suggestions to members of staff or speak at the student council or in an assembly. In each case we need the listeners to understand our work, ideas or suggestions so that we may gain marks in class, or get others to agree to our plans. For others to gain a full understanding, the points made must be in a logical and sensible order. The speaker must make it as easy as possible for the listener to make sense of what is being said.

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

In the workplace, instructions and plans are often discussed so that everyone understands what to do. Whether it be in a shop, building site or hospital, everyone needs to work together and follow the same procedures to ensure correctness and a consistent standard of work. Instructions, therefore, must be given in a sensible, logical order and understood by all.

If at work, you are trying to persuade others of a new idea or make a suggestion, there will be a greater understanding if you have thought through the order of what you are planning to say.

Why this skill step matters in wider life

When we are giving instructions, explaining how to do something or even persuading friends to do a specific activity, we need to explain the steps and ideas with clarity, in a logical order. If the elements are not put together sensibly, no one will understand you or they might be more likely to disagree with you. If you are complaining about faulty goods or service, the listener is likely to be more sympathetic and take action if your explanation is logical and easily understood.

How to practise this skill step

To best practise this step of Speaking, apply what you have learnt to a real-life situation. Choose one or more of the activities below, remind yourself of the key points and strategies in the step, and have a go!

  • Tie a shoe lace or bow. Try to explain to someone how to do it, giving detailed spoken instructions clearly and in a logical order. Do not physically help them.
  • List as many connectives as possible in a notebook. Describe your weekend or previous day, without using connectives and then again using as many of the connectives as possible. What was the impact of using the connectives?
  • Describe your journey to school, college, or work. Describe it again but in a mixed up order, would anyone be able to find their way from your jumbled instructions?
  • Pick a favourite game, sport, place, holiday, or hobby and speak for one minute about the topic, without any planning of what you are going to say. Did you speak about the topics in a sensible order? Did you think of things as you were speaking and add ideas as you went along? Now plan a minute’s talk on the same topic. Will you talk about the things in the same order? Why have you changed the order of some things? Which works better?

Build this step

Advice for

Parents & Carers

As a parent or carer, you might be thinking about how best to support your children to build their essential skills. The good news is that there is lots that you can do that will have a big impact, including:

  • Talking about how you use these skill steps in your own life
  • Trying to show how to use the skill steps, and explaining why you are doing what you are doing
  • Praising your children when they show they are using the skills well, and help them to see that as a worthwhile achievement

We’ve developed a whole series of tools and resources to help parents to build these skills, including:

  • Skill stories for the youngest children (aged 3+)
  • Short activities that you can complete together
  • Regular challenges that you can complete at home to build the essential skills
  • Reward systems like printable certificates and badges

There is also content for older children and young people, including short activities and reflections that they can complete alone, or with you.

Build this step