Soft skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, and problem solving are an exponentially important part of students’ life skills toolbox, yet assessing these skills remains a persistent challenge.

Eighty-three percent of teachers, 82 percent of parents, 82 percent of superintendents, and 83 percent of principals say it is equally important to assess both academic skills and nonacademic skills such as teamwork, critical thinking, and creativity, according to a new report commissioned by NWEA and conducted by Gallup.

But despite the agreement around importance, just 1 in 10 teachers say that the formal and informal assessments used by their school to gauge nonacademic skills measure them “very well.”

Teamwork seems to be the skill most in need of better assessment, with 42 percent of teachers saying the formal and informal assessments in their school do not measure teamwork well at all. Thirty percent of teachers say their school’s assessments do not measure students’ ability to consider different perspectives well at all.

Survey respondents say they believe soft skills should be taught both at school and at home.

Skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, applying lessons to real-world situations, considering different perspectives, and teamwork are all deemed important by survey respondents.

Though 61 percent of parents say they believe their child is learning skills to be successful in the future, only 20 percent believe the assessments their child takes in school measure “very well” whether their child will be successful in college.

About half of surveyed teachers (52 percent) believe they spend the right amount of time communicating assessment results to parents, and 29 percent say they spend too little time. Forty-six percent of parents say they believe teachers don’t spend enough time communicating assessment results.

“This year’s report addresses the important question of whether we are adequately preparing our students for the future, and it has revealed a number of areas of opportunity,” says Chris Minnich, CEO of NWEA. “Where I see the most potential is in truly measuring what matters for student success and ensuring that every assessment that exists today or is being created for tomorrow is relevant to student learning.”

NWEA offers recommendations to help educators focus on and communicate the importance of soft skills:
1. Accelerate the evolution of state assessment systems to measure what matters for student success
2. Broaden understanding of the value of developing and assessing nonacademic skills in diverse racial, ethnic, and cultural groups
3. Highlight parent optimism about assessments for learning to create better unity among educators.

Laura Ascione
About the Author:

Laura Ascione

Laura Ascione is the Managing Editor, Content Services at eSchool Media. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland's prestigious Philip Merrill College of Journalism. Find Laura on Twitter: @eSN_Laura