Soft skills encompass a wide variety of skills that are necessary to be successful in school and in the workplace. From time management to goal setting, communication and collaboration, the non-cognitive, or soft skills, are fundamental to academic success However, even with their importance, soft skills are often not explicitly taught. The purpose of this action research study was to explore the impact of teaching soft skills to high school students.
A soft skills curriculum was created using self-efficacy theory which serves as the heart of Bandura’s (1977) Social Learning Theory. Specifically, the soft skills were taught, modeled, and then practiced by the participants. The Soft Skills Training Group (SSTG) consisted of eight sessions and covered five soft skills: communication, collaboration, time management, work ethic, and goal setting. Additional soft skills related to employability were also covered. These consisted of creating a resume, completing a job application, and practicing job interviews.
Both quantitative and qualitative data were collected. Quantitative data included student and teacher Soft Skills Survey results. Qualitative data included student homework assignments and work produced during the intervention. Reflection sheets were completed after each session to serve as a self-assessment of new knowledge and application of the soft skills covered each session. At the conclusion of the SSTG intervention participants were also interviewed to gather qualitative data about their experience in the group.
Results indicate that although high school students had received some training in soft skills, they lacked the motivation to consistently use their knowledge of soft skills in the classroom. As suggested by previous research, soft skills require hands on practice and constructive feedback to increase student use of soft skills on a regular basis.