Knowledge Based and Skill Based Learning

Selecting the Right Approach for Your Classroom

By Tiara Smith, Copywriter & Content Strategist ; Courtney Lofgren, Learning Designer, Learning Design & Content Development

For quite some time, there has been a pedagogical debate about the advantages of implementing a skills-based or knowledge-based approach to learning. Though many are hoping for a definitive, universal rule to make this decision for their classrooms, it is simply not that easy. Within this article we plan to take a deep dive into the concepts of skills-based learning and knowledge-based learning, present tips from our resident expert, Courtney Lofgren, and help you determine how to provide the instruction that best suits your classroom.

What is Knowledge-based Learning?

Knowledge-based learning is an instructional approach that helps students broaden and deepen their knowledge of specific content areas and topics. Using this approach, learners use and build on their prior knowledge to make connections and deepen their understanding.

Knowledge-based Learning Objectives

The objective of knowledge-based learning is to help students begin to learn and comprehend more by creating a clear connection to real world experiences, examples, and, ultimately, their lives. To begin to implement this into the classroom, educators must first gain a deeper understanding of the knowledge that students already have, which can be achieved in many different ways, such as administering quizzes, reviewing their previous work, or asking them questions to hear their explanations. In doing so, educators will gain valuable information about how to best support students in building their knowledge.

Courtney’s Knowledge-Based Learning Tips:

  1. What does vocabulary instruction look like in your classroom? For me, it has always been important to expand students’ vocabularies to help them become better, more independent readers. One strategy I rely on is using text sets that build on one another, introducing and reviewing important vocabulary across a variety of texts. This is especially impactful when teaching key vocabulary and Tier-2 words. By using this strategy, students learn new words in context, and have many opportunities to read, define, discuss, and use the new vocabulary multiple times, which leads to better comprehension overall. Try using text sets to teach vocabulary, then watch and listen as your students incorporate the new words as they speak and write.
  2. If you’re like me, you are always thinking about ways to help your students build content knowledge as they read. One way you can do this is through units of study that integrate high-interest topics and engaging literacy resources. Students will build their knowledge of science, social studies, the arts, or any content for that matter, while simultaneously developing better reading, writing, and communication skills. And the best part is, this doesn’t have to be a daunting task for you and your colleagues! You can request support from your school and public librarians to help find relevant texts, you can browse digital literacy resources that support your chosen topic of study, and you can check out the Literacy Curriculum Map on Raz-Plus to find more ways to help students build their literacy skills and knowledge at the same time.

What is Skills-based Learning?

Skills-based learning is an approach in which skills are acquired through practice and application. Essential in developing students' abilities to read, write, and express themselves verbally, this approach is important to develop successful learners.

Skills-based Learning Objectives

When thought of in terms of literacy development, a skills-based approach equips students with the skills that will help them read, write, and verbally communicate. This approach will provide students with many opportunities to practice the skills and strategies that enable them to navigate rich, complex texts. Using this approach, educators will support students as they build the skills required to develop proficient phonemic awareness, fluency, vocabulary development, reading comprehension, and other skills that will allow them to achieve success in their adult lives.

Courtney’s Skills-Based Learning Tips:

  1. Are some or all of your students struggling with particular reading comprehension skills? In order to fill the gaps, it is important to make sure that you and your students have access to the tools and techniques that will help students comprehend the texts they read. All students need access to rich, complex texts, but some students may need more targeted comprehension instruction that can be used to help them practice and apply specific skills and strategies. As you gather information about your students’ comprehension needs, you can determine if the resources should be used to support the whole class, small groups, or individual students.
  2. Many students do not get enough practice developing the grammar and word work skills that will prepare them to become better readers, writers, and communicators. With this in mind, it is critical to incorporate instruction that helps students build these essential skills. If you’re like most teachers, time is your most valuable resource, so finding grammar and language instruction that is easy to implement into daily instruction is key. However you choose to integrate grammar and word work into your classroom, be sure to do it in a way that works best for you and your students.

Differences Between the two Approaches

Many educators would argue that what matters most is the amount of knowledge students acquire and the foundation of understanding it creates for future educational pursuits, but for some, this means nothing without the skills students pick up along the way. As an educator, it is up to you to examine your students’ needs and determine the best course of action. Oftentimes, this will mean incorporating both knowledge and skills-based opportunities for learning because either approach in isolation will not optimize learning. Regardless of what your students need, we have a plethora of tools to guide implementation. From thousands of texts that present a variety of content area knowledge to sequential lessons that help students master specific skills, we have everything your classroom needs to succeed!

Take a New Approach to Learning

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  1. Team, Editorial. “Knowledge Based Learning.” The Classroom | Empowering Students in Their College Journey, The Classroom, 5 Nov. 2021,
  2. Subhashini, R., et al. “Contemporary Curriculum: A Methodological Framework On Skill-Based Education In Language Learning.” Journal of Positive School Psychology, vol. 6, no. 11, ser. 172-176, 2022, pp. 1–5. 172-176.
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