In addition to academic skills, students need . . . Is it “grit,” “character,” a “growth mindset,” “non-cognitive traits and habits,” “21st-century skills,” “social and emotional skills” or perhaps “soft skills?” Nobody’s quite sure, writes Anya Kamenetz on NPR.
“Basically we’re trying to explain student success educationally or in the labor market with skills not directly measured by standardized tests,” says Martin West, at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Laura Bornfreund, deputy director of education policy at the New America Foundation who prefers “Skills for Success,” says the different terms reflect “a lack of agreement on what really is most important to students.”
I’ve been visiting high-performing schools with lots of high-need students lately. Every single principal mentioned the importance of a “growth mindset” for teachers and students.
Many students say their classes are easy, writes Lisa Hansel on Core Knowledge blog. “Thanks to the self-esteem movement, the narrowing of the curriculum, and test-prep drills that focus more on strategies than on content, we now have a grit, character, team work, self-discipline, call-it-whatever-you-want problem.”
Trying to teach these skills and traits directly isn’t the solution, Hansel argues.
I had some easy history classes in middle school. Then I had a high school US history class with fact- and concept-heavy exams, quarterly debates, and a college-quality term paper (that was spread across the entire year so we were taught each step of the research and writing process). The class was not easy. It was also one of the best I ever took. Grit was necessary, but not the goal. We were given a goal that made us want to develop knowledge, skills, and grit: understanding America’s past and present so that we would be capable of helping shape a better tomorrow.
I think “executive functioning skills” such as planning, focusing attention and self-regulating are the key to success in school, college and life.