Clarity skills unpacked

Clarity skills help us make better arguments. They also predict, support, and influence learning and development.

What are clarity skills?

At Lectica (the nonprofit that owns me), clarity skills are defined as a set of interrelated skills required for making good arguments. We evaluate the clarity skills demonstrated in responses to our assessments using rubrics that focus on the clarity skills that can be observed in these performances. The information in this article relates to those rubrics.

We began measuring clarity skills because effectively communicating one’s point of view is an essential life skill. Without clarity skills, we cannot advocate for ourselves, our families, our communities, or our values. But clarity skills do much more for us than improving our ability to make arguments. They also predict, support, and influence our learning and development throughout the lifespan.

  • Their quality predicts future growth: Clarity skills are an indicator of the current quality of an individual’s mental network. High Clarity scores indicate a well-connected mental network that provides a solid foundation for future growth.
  • Practicing them supports future growth: Practicing Clarity skills reinforces, prunes, and creates new connections between neurons.
  • Practicing them influences future growth: Consciously practicing clarity skills requires making one’s current understanding of an issue or concept explicit, often exposing gaps or inconsistencies. Gaps and inconsistencies, once recognized, often motivate learning.

As shown in the skill map below, we divide Clarity (a mega-skill) into four macro-skills — (1) logical coherence, (2) clear communication, (3) persuasiveness, and (4) framing. Each of these macro-skills is further broken down into mini-skills (in bold type), then micro-skills. Micro-skills are so granular that they can be practiced in real-world contexts, in real-time. In writing this article, I am consciously practicing almost all of the micro-skills in the Clarity map using another skill called micro-VCoLing.

Meta → mega → macro → mini → micro

If you aren’t yet familiar with skill mapping, it may be helpful to know that it involves breaking down large, complex skills (meta-skills) into smaller and smaller sub-skills until we arrive at micro-skills. Micro-skills can be practiced in context, in realtime using another skill called micro-VCoLing.

Logical coherence: The primary mini-skills in the “logical coherence group include monitoring and managing completeness, contradiction, and complexification. Notice that the micro-skills that fan out from these mini-skills can all be practiced in real-life contexts. For example, explaining relationships between ideas is a skill we need when explaining how ideas are related to one another, as in “Mini-skills are made up of multiple micro-skills.”

Clear communication: The primary mini-skills in the “clear communication group include monitoring and managing the economy, relevance, and accessibility of communication. You can build your own communication skills by evaluating this article in terms of the micro-skills in the “clear communication” macro-skill.

Persuasiveness: The primary mini-skills in the “persuasiveness group include skills for providing reasons and evidence. In assessment prompts, we explicitly ask test-takers to provide a rationale for each response. (Persuasion skills are also included in our Collaborative capacity map.)

Framing: The mini-skills in this group are skills for framing arguments—recognizing and explaining your frame of reference—and for switching frames—recognizing and letting your audience know when and how you are shifting your frame of reference. For example, I framed my definition of “Clarity skills” by explaining that I am defining Clarity through a specific Lectica lens. I also provided an alternate frame in a sidebar about the categorization of Clarity skills (below). Have you detected any other frames?

This image is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

I do not claim that our categorization of Clarity skills is either comprehensive or a true reflection of the order of the universe. Skill maps are merely a useful device for revealing skills that can readily be practiced in real-time. To learn more about skill-mapping and how it is used to support learning, see VUCA unpacked (1) — Introduction.

Clarity skills & VCoL+7

Clarity skills are required for optimal learning throughout the life-span. In the VCoL+7 model, these skills relate most closely to self & other awareness, seeking & evaluating information, and applying knowledge.

These skills are at the core of learning throughout our lives because they are mechanisms through which we retrieve, process, and share information. With VCoL, we can develop increasing virtuosity in these skills throughout our lives.

Want to go deeper?

If you’d like to play with the Clarity map, download the SimpleMind file or copy the image in this article.

This article is related to a series of articles focused on skill-mapping and micro-VCoLing, including:

ViP info | ViP rationale

Award-winning educator, scholar, & consultant, Dr. Theo Dawson, discusses a wide range of topics related to learning and development.