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“Experts Begin to Identify Nonacademic Skills Key to Success”


Experts Begin to Identify Nonacademic Skills Key to Success is the headline of a recent story in Ed Week. It discusses research that is finding non-academic skills are important keys to student success in college and in their careers. Here’s an excerpt:

Across education and industry, research by Mr. Sackett; Neal Schmitt, a psychology professor at Michigan State University in East Lansing; and others shows the biggest predictor of success is a student’s conscientiousness, as measured by such traits as dependability, perseverance through tasks, and work ethic. Agreeableness, including teamwork, and emotional stability were the next-best predictors of college achievement, followed by variations on extroversion and openness to new experiences, Mr. Sackett found. “If you take a close look at these commercial tests [given during job interviews], they are compound traits of the top three traits” predicting post-high school success, he said.

Interestingly enough, this is the focus of my upcoming third book (now, tentatively titled “Student Self-Motivation”) that will be published by Eye On Education in May. In it, I provide practical ideas and lessons for the classroom on how to help students learn these kinds of skills in a way that connects with academic content knowledge.

I don’t think it has to be approached from an either/or perspective.

You can get a “peek” at what I’m talking about by viewing some of my previous “The Best…” lists, including:

My Best Posts On “Motivating” Students

My Best Posts About Helping Students Develop Their Capacity For Self-Control

My Best Posts On Students Setting Goals

I did, though, get a bit concerned after reading another section of the article:

Roger P. Weissberg, a psychology and education professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the director of the university’s Social and Emotional Research Group is building “common-core standards for social-emotional learning,” while Steve Robbins, the vice president for research at ACT Inc., said the Iowa City, Iowa-based testing company is integrating academic achievement, behavior, and career planning into its K-12 programs.

When I start reading about creating “common-core standards” for these qualities, and hear that a testing company is starting to get involved, warning lights start to flash in my head… However, that reaction might be unfair, so I’ll reserve judgement until I see what they come up with.

Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.


  1. Larry,
    Great post, and I can’t wait to read the book. It’s so vital that those outside of education begin to see that we are merely a component in a student’s success. It worries me too when testing companies begin to throw their hat in the ring of analyzing how to compartmentalize those traits into a more scholastic responsibility. At what point do we share the responsibility of child preparation?

    Anyway, great thoughts, great post (as always), and I’ll be first in line to check out the new book!
    -Heather Wolpert-Gawron
    aka Tweenteacher

  2. Hi Larry,

    I’d be interested in seeing if there is a correlation between these skills and the socioeconomic backgrounds of the students. I certainly notice that my working class and lower income students tend to lack these skills.

  3. Hi Larry

    It occurs to me that the school cannot be left alone to develop these ‘soft-skills’ that are becoming increasingly important in the world today. Parents play a vital role in the development of these skills from an early age and perhaps we should be partnering with our parents to assist them in this. The very important role of the extended family also comes into this discussion.

    I would also love to read a response from someone involved in Early Childhood learning.

    It also occurs to me that teachers need to role-modelling these traits inside and outside the classroom if we are to start seeing improvements in this area. It is most definitely case of “do as I do” and not simply “do as I say”!

    Thanks for another great post. All the best for the coming year!

    Arthur (@artpreston)

  4. I just read a transcript of One Day University: Positive Psychology, a $.99 download at Amazon. It addresses findings with Harvard students which were then consistently found in corporate life worldwide, relating happiness and success. Main finding are that positive viewpoint (with suggestions how to train that), positive social support network, and believing that one’s own behavior can improve things (like exercise). Focussing on pleasures of the process rather than outcome, praising that process rather than outcome (and how that encourages real and “successful” engagement and greater happiness, and activating energy is included. Interesting and recommended.

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