Anyone who has made it through the higher education system can attest to the importance of cognitive skills in the classroom. These are the skills used to process, store, retrieve and apply information and are therefore essential in the classroom. But for students and professionals, other skills are just as—or even more—important to succeed in college and beyond. These are non-cognitive skills that are often overlooked in the academic world.
Non-cognitive skills, also known as “soft skills” or “social-emotional skills,” are a set of personal skills that enable individuals to interact effectively with others and navigate the social and emotional aspects of life. traits, attitudes, behaviors. These include self-awareness, empathy, motivation, and persistence. These are skills that help you manage stress, build relationships, and stay focused on your goals. These are skills that will help you overcome obstacles and achieve success.
Non-cognitive skills are as important as cognitive skills in higher education. A high IQ and good academic performance are undoubtedly helpful in college, but they are not the only factors that determine success in higher education. Even students with high IQs and excellent academic performance can struggle in college if they can’t manage the stress and motivation to persevere through difficult classes.
Conversely, students with weaker cognitive skills but strong non-cognitive skills may be less likely to have the skills needed to navigate the complex social and emotional contexts of higher education. , may succeed in college. Students with strong self-regulation skills are able to manage their time effectively, stay organized, and maintain a consistent study schedule, even when faced with difficult classes or time constraints.
An episode of the NPR podcast “Hidden Brain” compared people with a GED to those with a high school diploma. The GED test is designed for individuals who have not completed a high school education and wish to pursue a high school equivalent. Passing the GED exam demonstrates that the candidate has acquired the knowledge and skills of a high school graduate. Economist James Heckman found that GED recipients are as smart as high school graduates as measured by standardized tests, but have significantly lower real-life success. He attributed this difference in life outcomes to non-cognitive skills that cannot be measured by standardized tests.
A recent study by this author compared the relationship between non-cognitive skills and academic performance in black men attending community colleges. In this study, academic performance was measured by participants’ cumulative GPA and cumulative course pass rate (total courses passed/total courses attempted). The Sedlacek Noncognitive Questionnaire (NCQ) was used to measure noncognitive skills. The NCQ assesses his eight non-cognitive dimensions of emotional maturity, interpersonal skills, and personal experience.
8 non-cognitive variables
• Positive self-concept
• Realistic self-assessment
• Ability to deal with racism
• Prioritize long-term goals
• Access to support personnel
• Successful leadership experience
• Community Service
• Non-traditional knowledge
According to research results, successful leadership experience It correlates with student pass rates. This means that leadership experience can develop skills such as time management, organization, communication, critical thinking, and self-confidence. These skills can be applied in college courses to improve performance, avoid missing deadlines, understand complex concepts, and collaborate with others.
The study also revealed a relationship between a preference for long-term goal setting and students’ cumulative pass rates. This suggests that long-term goal setting helps students stay motivated, plan effectively, stay focused, and hold them accountable for learning. Breaking large tasks into smaller, more manageable tasks helps students succeed in college and overcome potential obstacles.
It is important to note that non-cognitive skills can be developed and strengthened with practice and effort. This is encouraging for those who feel they lack certain non-cognitive skills.
As educators and leaders, we need to recognize the importance of non-cognitive skills in higher education. Students need opportunities to develop these skills. We can encourage our students to challenge themselves, build relationships and reflect.
Providing additional support is beneficial for students who may struggle with non-cognitive skills. This may include providing resources and support for managing stress, building confidence, and developing guts. Additionally, faculty involvement and ongoing professional development help ensure that non-cognitive skills such as guts are incorporated into course design and student engagement efforts.
Dr. Callow Gordon is the Campus Director of Instruction for the Wayne County Community College District in Detroit, Michigan.
The Roueche Center Forum is co-edited by Dr. John E. Roush and Margaretta B. Mathis, Department of Educational Leadership, School of Education, Kansas State University, John E. Roush Community College Leadership Center.