Teachers who help students develop noncognitive skills — including self-regulation, motivation and the ability to adapt to new circumstances — can have more positive effects on student outcomes than those who just help students raise test scores, according to Edutopia, citing a recent study by C. Kirabo Jackson of Northwestern University.
By focusing on these skills, 9th-grade educators who helped improve students' long-term outcomes made them more likely to attend school regularly and have higher grades, as well as less likely to be suspended or held back. An uptick in measures of students' noncognitive skills also increased their chances of gradating high school by 1.47 percentage points, compared to 0.12 percentage points for similar upticks in test scores, Edutopia notes.
- In addition to new research revealing the long-term benefits of noncognitive skills, students who drop out of school don't typically do it because of the academics — it's because of a personal event or situation, Edutopia writes. As a result, the publication writes, keeping students in school shouldn't just be about test scores, but also about making students feel like they belong.
While increasing student knowledge and achievement make up one of the main goals of education, preparing students for the workplace and for success in managing their lives is equally important and benefits society as well as the students themselves.
The workplace has always required skills such as teamwork, cooperation and self-regulation, and these noncognitive skills are still valued by employers who seek a stable, reliable and dependable workforce. And skills such as adaptability are even more important in today’s workplace than before because it is constantly changing.
However, some roadblocks stand in the way, including how these noncognitive skills are harder to measure. Teaching social-emotional learning skills covers some of these bases, but some skills, like self-regulation, require time, patience and understanding to teach. But in the long run, these skills are arguably among the most valuable, not only in terms of academic outcomes, but also in terms of life experience. A self-regulated person is more likely to be employed, maintain positive relationships, and avoid prison. And a teacher who instills these qualities is a life-changer.
Attempts have been made to measure self-regulation, and more tools are now available to measure other SEL skills as well. But success in these areas is often more commonly noted in the students themselves by their attitudes, behaviors, attendance records and attention to schoolwork. While high test scores – which are often tied to teacher evaluations, though some states are thinking twice about the practice – often draw attention and praise for educators, school leaders need to recognize the value of those who are successfully instilling these noncognitive skills in students and make sure they receive their share of praise and encouragement as well.