“Soft skills” in big demand

Assessment, Pedagogy June 3, 2008

This month’s Education Week has published an interesting article entitled ‘Soft Skills’ in Big Demand by Catherine Gewertz, which discusses a new approach to learning being adopted by many schools to help incorporate the ‘soft’ or ‘applied’ skills now in demand in the 21st century work force.  According to the article:

“In an increasingly global, technological economy, they [policy and business leaders] say, it isn’t enough to be academically strong. Young people must also be able to work comfortably with people from other cultures, solve problems creatively, write and speak well, think in a multidisciplinary way, and evaluate information critically.”

Schools are adopting applied learning outcomes, such as interpersonal skills and oral communication , to which students are assessed in all curricular areas, including mathematics and science.  The article discusses an algebra class at Sacramento New Technology High School, where instead of solving problems out of textbooks, students study and solve problems of real-world issues.  Students in this project-based class are evaluated on citizenship and ethics as well as their math skills.  Combining subjects, such as geography and English, have allowed students at this school to study multidisciplinary topics in greater depth.

It is refreshing to see pioneer schools taking a proactive role in preparing their students for life in the 21st century.  I believe ‘soft skills’ are even more important than academic skills because they are the skills of life, and they are the skills we must use everyday.

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