Soft Skills Like Self‑Regulation, Perseverance Influence Kids’ School Success
A new review of all research related to the effects of children’s social, or ‘soft,’ skills on school and life success has found smarts only go so far; non-cognitive social and learning skills also influence academic achievement, as well as positive psychosocial, cognitive and language outcomes in life.
“Traits such as attention, self-regulation, and perseverance in childhood have been investigated by psychologists, economists, and epidemiologists, and some have been shown to influence later life outcomes,” says the study’s senior author, John Lynch, a professor in the School of Public Health, at the University of Adelaide, Australia.
One of the study’s co-authors, Lisa Smithers, an associate professor at the University, called the evidence “tentative,” not because the links between social skills in childhood and later success were tenuous, but because of a broad lack of quality studies on the subject. Of more than 550 eligible studies, only about 40% were rigorous enough to be included in their review. While that’s still 210 studies — a number from which conclusions can still be drawn — it’s minuscule compared to amount of research into other topics. The study authors are calling for more research into the topic.
This may be partly due to the fact that focus on so-called 21st century skills for children is a relatively new phenomenon. While it’s been widely reported that these social, or ‘soft,’ skills are the traits employers will desire most in the future, schools have been slow to catch up in their pedagogy. That said, change is afoot — most notably in Delhi schools’ much-publicized Happiness Curriculum, announced earlier this year. While not without flaws, the kind of emotional intelligence and self-reflection the program seeks to instill in students is a move toward recognizing that building social skills for children is as important as building intelligence, when it comes to academic and life success.