Blog Post: The Skills Game…

The skills game: Who’s on first? What’s on second? How’s on third!
By Ed DeRoche

An unofficial, non-scientific poll conducted while watching a World Series game revealed that attendees were in a state of confusion about skill development in schools.

Yes, they had heard about the SCAN’s Report, about “soft skills,” and currently popular 21st-century skills. Some educators at the party recognized the names of Bloom and Goldman. The group acknowledged “heard about” was not the same as “know about.” By the seventh inning, they rebelled against continuing the discussion and expressed more interest in the drinks, snacks and the last three innings.

When the party was over and it was time to call it a day, I drove home happy that the Red Sox won and with an idea for my November blog.

Several years ago, Bloom’s Taxonomy was the “go to” for thinking skills. Then came the Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS) by the Secretary of Labor. The report illustrated the need for employee skills in three general areas; basic skills (e.g., reading, writing, math, listening, speaking); thinking skills (e.g., thinking creatively, making decisions, solving problems, reasoning); and personal qualities (e.g., responsibility, self-esteem, sociability, self-management, honesty).

Like the SCANS findings, recent employee surveys show that employers are looking for certain qualities in employees such as listening and communication skills, adaptability, creative thinking, problem-solving skills, goal setting, and competence in reading, writing and computation. It has been reported that 85% of those who lose jobs do so because of inadequate social skills.

Daniel Goleman, a psychologist, hit a homerun with his books “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ and Working with Emotional Intelligence.” He revealed data from studies in more than 500 organizations that proved factors such as self-confidence, self-awareness, self-control, commitment and integrity not only create more successful employees, but also more successful companies. Fortune 500 companies report five top qualities they seek in employees that are directly related to Goleman’s findings: teamwork, problem solving, interpersonal skills, oral communication and listening.

In discussing emotional intelligence, Daniel Goleman cites Peter Salovey, a Yale professor who categorized components of emotional and social skills into five areas: knowing one’s emotions, managing emotions, motivating oneself, recognizing emotions in others, and handling relationships.

Business people are talking and writing about “soft skills.” Shari Caudron in an article titled The Hard Case for Soft Skills, says: “Like it or not, emotions are an intrinsic part of our biological makeup, and every morning they march into the office (and our schools and classrooms) with us and influence our behavior … The ability to understand, monitor, manage and capitalize on our emotions can help us make better decisions, cope with setbacks and interact with others more effectively … Executives are starting to talk about the importance of such things as trust, confidence, empathy, adaptability and self-control.” In the education profession, we call this character education.

Our skills-scorecard now includes 21st-century skills. There are four: Ways of Thinking (creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, decision-making and learning); Ways of Working (communication and collaboration); Tools for Working (information and communications technology and information literacy; and Skills for Living (citizenship, life and career, and personal and social responsibility). Two skills, according to the team managers, that cut across all four categories are “collaborative problem solving” and “learning in digital networks.”

I think it is fair to say that there are enough skills in the ballgame to fill four or more scorecards. So, how are we/you going to play the skills game?