Soft Skills…more like ‘Da Skillz

I came across Jackie Gerstein‘s blog User Generated Education while researching “soft” skills the other day. The post, The Other 21st Century Skills: Why Teach Them is chock full goodies if you are interested in some why’s of teaching skills vs content.  I have been told a few times “We don’t assess soft skills.”  I have also been asked, “How do you even assess “soft skills?”  Well, at this moment, I am going to stop referring to them as “soft skills.” Dr.Tony Wagner refers to them as Survival Skills (see below). I like improper lingo in case you didn’t know. So I am going to use the phrase ‘Da Skillz mainly because in all things education, things are taken way to seriously so why not.

In this space of DEEP design thinking, I have spent some time unpacking, understanding, researching, and exploring possibilities around “assessment” and design thinking.  I have a long road to travel and make no claims (& will never claim) an expertise in this area of education.  I am acutely aware that my learning needs to branch out into more “book” study but at the moment my focus is learning through application, iteration, observation, & engaging in local conversations with educators in the field. (Jill Gough, Shelley Clifford, Jim Tiffin, Shelley Paul, Shawna Voit, Nicole Martin, Margaret Gunter)  

Whenever I am working with learners, I am in constant assessment mode.  It gauges my future actions and interactions with learners as well as paces the trek through the design process. Yet, more importantly it gives me insight into where the learners are at the moment in their demonstrations of skills and growing: emerging, developing, mastery, applying (for example).  When I am in the mess of design thinking there are so many opportunities to “assess” skills and I try to be intentional about what skills I am focusing on.  Mount Vernon Presbyterian School has a set of Mindsets (see image below) that were developed a few years ago after the whole school dove deep into Wagner‘s The Global Achievement Gap.  Our instruction is driven through the mindsets. Some may consider them “soft skills”, again I call those examples ‘Da Skillz.

Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in our Upper School’s #MVinterim week.  I was asked to plan something that only I might just plan something.  So I created the Atlanta Adventure Series with the guidance of master Letterboxer & Adventure seeker, Jim Tiffin. I was also asked to create a rubric to grade the students on this experience.  Well, I didn’t do that. Instead I created a self-assessment of Learning Progressions based off of Mount Vernon’s Mindsets.  To me, ‘Da Skillz are what I focus on when it comes to learning and doing. I couldn’t see “grading” students in this experience. SNAPs from ATL Adventure HERE & HERE

If you are interested finite moments in learning, well let’s talk about that… To me, I’m interested in growth, process, an accumulation of learning moments, and demonstrations of ‘Da Skillz… Not the destination, but the journey

A Work in Progress ‘Da Skillz List soon to follow….

Resources I am reading about assessment + ‘Da Skillz

Tony Wagner’s list of what he calls Survival Skills:

  • Critical thinking and problem-solving
  • Collaboration across networks and leading by influence
  • Agility and adaptability
  • Initiative and entrepreneurship
  • Effective oral and written communication
  • Accessing and analyzing information
  • Curiosity and imagination*

 Expanding Tools for 21st Century Assessment via Jonathan Martin

Tony Wagner’s 7 Survival Skills

Experiments in Learning by Doing via Jill Gough

Rigor Redefined by Tony Wagner

Building Capacity via Jim Tiffin Jr.

21st Century Skills

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