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The Importance of Teaching Soft Skills

In a world so focused on standardized results, a dose of the softer side and well-rounded learning is just what’s needed.

For those hearing and/or touting the idea that as a society the squashing of any softness in kids will prepare them for the future, it’s time to think again. The inclusion of many of these softer qualities/skills is actually a boon for a successful professional life and for the creation of an overall well-rounded contributor to society. All Hail, the Softies!

A 2013 study at Google found that its top employees weren’t savants in all things STEM, but rather those who possessed seven characteristics that fall under the category of soft skills. Coaching, communicating, empathy, critical thinking, making connections, inclusive insight, and empathy were the top commonalities of Google’s top employees. The types of qualities that are learned by working with others in a functional, problem-solving capacity as opposed to a standardized, cookie cutter curriculum far outweighed STEM expertise.

This doesn’t translate to a steady infusion of tear-jerker movies and using the Chicken Soup for the Soul series as the sole text in ELA, but it does translate to making room for character building and the development of empathy that can be lacking in a standards-driven learning environment. In the Heart of Learning, Jonathan Chase purports the importance of “…preparing citizens for the “tests” of life, rather than repeatedly measuring and comparing common skills and abilities while preparing students for standardized tests.”

What will soft skill development look like in the classroom?

  • Collaborative Learning- not the oft called upon situation of group work, but a truly collaborative environment where ideas are shared, discussed, and valued with no coattails available for riding.
  • Personalized Learning- embracing the movement to connect students on a more personal level to the learning that is occurring.
  • Genius Hour- making the time for students to explore individual interests.
  • Open-ended Questions & Activities- offering pathways for thinking and trial and error as opposed to cut and dried responses.
  • Reflection- the importance of understanding oneself as a learner is a powerful tool for growth and understanding of others.
  • Project-based Learning- more real-life and cohesive learning experiences.
  • Character Education- making time for building empathy and self-awareness.
  • Intentional Kindness & Inclusion- helpings students realize the importance of mindfulness and acceptance of others.
  • Development of Social Skills- setting the screens aside to create the ability to positively interact with others.

It’s not about downplaying the importance of STEM or standards, but it is about inclusivity of a wider range of ideas and skills. The future for students isn’t about entering the workforce with a singular set of skills; it’s about entering the workforce as open-minded thinkers with an ability to problem solve, learn, collaborate, and adapt. The ability to measure these employable, soft skills isn’t something that translates to a standardized testing score. It’s time to take a hard look at the importance of soft skills and move toward embracing a more well-rounded educational pathway for students to utilize in their future successes.

If you enjoyed the thoughts and ideas shared here, check out the trainings and tools (for teachers and for families) that we offer.

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