The Enabling Role of Core Knowledge

For any non-technical skills training program to be effective, it must first ensure that participants have the requisite knowledge to understand the nature of the skills being developed.8 In traditional training, there has always been a clear relationship between theoretical knowledge and skill development. Indeed, the basic understanding of a skilled practitioner is often referred to as someone who is good at putting theory into practice. In many professional domains, theoretical knowledge is taught prior to practical skill development.


Laparoscopic surgery, sometimes known as ‘keyhole’ surgery, involves the use of a camera and a surgical instrument being inserted through only very small incisions. The surgeon guides with one hand a camera on the end of a rod, and the other hand guides the required surgical instrument on the end of a rod.

The development of skills in laparoscopic surgery is a classic example of the enabling role of theoretical knowledge in the context of psychomotor skill development.

Prior to learning the art of laparoscopic surgery, the surgeon must have learnt the requisite knowledge with respect to anatomy, the relevant disease, as well as a host of other pieces of theoretical medical knowledge. Further, the surgeon must also have knowledge relating to the technical operation of the laparoscope and associated surgical equipment. This knowledge is then integrated with technical psychomotor skills in operating the equipment to actually undertake a safe and successful operation.

While this example focusses on technical knowledge and skill, exactly the same approach can be taken with respect to the training of non-technical skills.

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