The importance of soft skills for student readiness
The World Economic Forum Future of Jobs report predicts that by 2025 critical thinking, complex problem-solving, people management, emotional intelligence, and creativity will gain immense priority in the workplace. All of these are examples of soft skills. And the National Soft Skills Association found that 85% of job success comes from having well-developed soft skills.
Soft skills in a post-pandemic world
In the years since the COVID-19 pandemic began, there’s been an increasing demand for remote or hybrid learning. The Student Futures Commission found that well over half (66%) of students wanted a blend of in-person and online learning. Alongside this has been a growing interest in more flexible degree styles
With this flexibility of learning emerging, it’s the perfect time to bring an enhanced focus to the value of teaching soft skills to students. Preparing students with a future-proof skillset is vital to ensuring their ongoing success.
Why are soft skills hard to measure?
Soft skills may be vital but there’s often a lack of focus on them in academic environments and many struggle with how exactly to evaluate soft skills.
Despite contemporary society’s still intense focus on the value of standardised testing for the evaluation of students and of institutions themselves, these sorts of tests are not efficient at measuring soft skills. Soft skills refer to personal processes, shown through behaviours and actions and usually otherwise unobservable. But there are some inventive and innovative methods emerging to track soft skills development.
How to measure soft skills
As with hard skills in university or college, it’s important to measure soft skills to ensure that students are developing and improving their skills. Soft skills, particularly, are important to measure because they are transferable and flexible skills that can affect students’ career paths.
However, their nature makes them difficult to assess and measure properly. In order to gain an accurate picture of soft skill performance, it will likely require multi-layered assessments. Unfortunately, there’s often a lack of specific tools to evaluate soft skills in education.
Here are some ways soft skills are currently being measured, and some of the tools out there that can be used in education settings:
A common way to monitor and measure soft skills is through the use of educator observations compared against a set rubric.
One such example of this is from Dr. Drew C. Appleby of the American Psychological Association, who analysed where his students successfully demonstrated key behaviours from certain soft skills and compared them to a rubric that listed successful attributes.
Another common method is through the use of data analysis - taking answers from questionnaires and utilising that to monitor soft skills development. One research paper presented a psychometric questionnaire designed specifically for young adults: the Soft Skills Inventory.
Similarly to this, is the use of self-reflection to monitor soft skills. This is a common technique used by hiring managers to gauge soft skills but can be adapted to work within an education environment.
Hiring managers traditionally gauge soft skills through self-reflection by asking candidates to list soft skills they think are required for success in the job, or to rank their own soft skills from strongest to weakest, or even by having their references rank their soft skills. These are all suitable methods for educators too - utilising self- and peer-reflection to measure students’ soft skills. An example of a questionnaire for self reflection is Angela Duckworth’s Grit Scale.
It’s also important to highlight three innovative and authentic assessments created by Bernardo Pereira Nunes, senior lecturer in computer science at the Australian National University’s College of Engineering, Computing and Cybernetics. These are the video pill, the escape room, and the group project. You can read more about them here.
Tools for soft skills measurement
Most soft skills measuring tools out there are for recruiters/hiring managers/HR - pre- and during employment - but some are for or can be adapted for student/university use.
Breeze allows students and staff to track soft skills development, allowing them to set goals and monitor achievements.
Skills Base is made for employee skill assessment but it appears to be one of the more flexible tools out there and could be applied to classes or cohorts of students.
As part of a Bodyswaps licence, we provide access to Bodyswaps Go, our analytics platform where you can see individual and class progress with completion as well as survey responses on confidence levels.
Enhance student soft skills with Bodyswaps
For actionable and measurable soft skills development for your students, Bodyswaps provides the full package: immersive learning modules covering a variety of soft skills, ongoing support throughout your licence, and our exclusive analytics platform for skills monitoring.
Download information on our Discovery Package today to learn more.