Can Soft Skills Be Taught in a Classroom?
More and more companies are measuring soft skills in their work force and evaluating their impact on performance. Only recently do we have evidence that soft skills may be age- and occupation-related. This is based on four different studies. The first two studies were conducted in the fall of 2008. Nine hundred college freshmen from two Midwest universities were asked to respond to an assessment that measures 23 specific soft skills. The results from both groups (business and engineering majors) indicated that, as a group, they have almost no mastery in these 23 soft skills. In fact, their lowest scores were in decision making.
In the spring of 2009, a small group of seniors were given the same survey. The results showed only a slight improvement.
Curriculum or Practice?
Looking at the numbers, it is becoming more and more apparent that certain soft skills cannot be taught in the classroom. To mention a few:
To support this hypothesis, a group of employed adults (1632) were given the same assessments. Specifically, the research was looking for correlations among people who are passionate about knowledge for knowledge’s sake. Many Ph.D.s fall into this category. The evidence was very clear on all 23 soft skills: There were no correlations strong enough to predict a person will actually develop soft skills based on curriculum knowledge. The assessment used did not measure their knowledge of the skills; it measured their mastery of the skills and the use of these skills in their work. In other words, Do they walk their talk?
The bookstores are full of self-help books that would lead you to think that buying a book can lead to developing and mastering certain soft skills. Merely reading a book on how to persuade others will not make you a successful sales person.
So what are we to do? The knowledge needs to be incorporated into activities, experiences and games. Practicing what you preach is the most promising method of developing soft skills.
First, make a comment if you have some ideas to make this work. Second, contact us if you want to learn about how you rank with your personal soft skills. Our phone number is 901-757-4434.
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