Soft Skills: What Are They and How to Teach Them
May 6, 2021
6 min read
A teacher’s job is not easy. Not only do they have to focus on a student’s academics but also how they are performing in their extra-curriculars, how they socialize, how they manage stress, and the list goes on. These things collectively come under the umbrella called,
Unfortunately, the education system has always kept a more book-centric approach. Meaning, professors often forget to focus on anything other than a student’s academics. And hey, we aren’t pointing fingers.
We understand there is a lot to teach, many students to teach to, and the curriculum feels never-ending (and online learning can pose other obstacles). But on the flip side, we also failed to realize the importance of soft skills and left those somewhere along the line.
So, let’s bring them back? This article explores everything from how they differentiate from hard skills, their importance, types, and most importantly how to teach soft skills.
Soft skills and hard skills. Fancy terms, huh? To put it simply, soft skills are qualities and talents you can only personify. These make you a better person. While on the other hand, hard skills are qualities that look good on paper. Here is a deeper look into it.
The importance of soft skills in one’s life can be deemed as irreplaceable. These skills, if taught well and in a timely manner, can have a lot of impact on an individual’s career.
As teachers, it is our job to make sure our students are fit to work in a career of their choice. Developing hard skills is a necessity but soft skills are just as important. When reflected properly on a resume, these can help you get into any career of your choice, provided you also embody the hard skills required for it. Thus, it is safe to say soft skills and hard skills go hand-in-hand.
Employers look for certain specific soft skills while hiring employees. These can also help make you stand out from the others. This is why we have listed four of the most important ones, along with ways to teach those skills. Since we understand that online learning is the new normal, you can also use those methods of teaching while in an online class. Some of them are:
Communication goes both ways. It is only considered successful if the person on the receiving end of the message interprets it the way it was meant to be. This requires active listening.
From an industrial point of view, effective communication is almost like the basis of it all. If an individual can’t communicate well with his co-workers, this can ultimately lead to a gap and cause other discrepancies. Thus, the qualities of a good communicator include effective listening, responding, and ensuring that everyone on the team understands. Understand more about the importance of communication at work here.
Active listening is the most important aspect of communication. Therefore, to inculcate listening habits in your students you can engage them in a number of activities. The simplest one is where they are paired off or made into groups (break-out rooms) and are asked to prepare a presentation on any given topic. Once it is over, the other students must ask follow-up questions.
Here, asking follow-ups is the most crucial part. This shows that the student was listening. It is also important to have their attention at all times so remember to keep the topics as interesting as possible.
Though public speaking is a domain that includes communication, it is not completely the same. Since public speaking requires you to speak in front of at least over 3-4 people, it requires a whole other skill set.
A good public speaker should be able to present his content confidently in front of the said audience. They must also be well-prepared and have logic in what they are speaking. Besides this, they need to have a clear language and must know how to get their point across to the audience as per their knowledge.
Since public speaking can be difficult for many students, especially who are rather shy or have introverted tendencies, it is crucial to take small steps.
For beginners, you can give them a topic to speak on just in front of their friends. Once they are comfortable with this, ask them to speak on it in front of the class, and so on. The most crucial part would be to get the fear of public speaking out of their mind, as well as making them comfortable with being the centre of attention.
In a virtual setting, public speaking can turn out to be harder than expected. But on the other hand, it becomes twice as important a soft skill. Thus, it is important to treat this situation separately and pay special attention to kids who might be facing extra difficulty in this case. Teachers can keep one-on-one sessions to begin with and slowly increase the difficulty level by including more people on the video call.
Managing time effectively is a life skill that will help students during any point of their life. Be it their school, university, or job. Since we all juggle multiple things together, knowing how to prioritize and schedule your work will never not help.
This skill will also make them more independent as well as responsible. Time management can also help you set a routine for your daily life, thus inculcating discipline.
For time management, the teacher can simply challenge the students to complete a number of given tasks within a set time limit. These tasks can be as simple as completing a quick write up, surfing the internet for some information, and so on.
The teacher can also send them off in groups (or break-out rooms). This will not only improve their time management but also how they work in teams. The activity can be made even interesting by assigning a value to each task. This will make the students prioritize their activities in order to gain the maximum points in the given time.
Lastly, teamwork. This is probably the most important and inclusive skill of all. Most of us end up working in an environment with multiple co-workers. And we also have a high chance of ending up working with them towards a common goal. In this case, it is extremely important to foster a spirit of team playing.
By working towards an individual’s teamwork skills, they also ultimately end up developing other soft skills like:
Just like public speaking, teamwork is also a dynamic that was rattled due to the remote working conditions. This aspect is easier to implement when in person but what about when working remotely?
One thing it demands for is over-communication. In the sense, one has to keep their superiors updated at all times of the work they’ve completed in a day. This applies to employees as well as students. It can be achieved by maintaining an excel sheet or simply giving an update each day.
Another thing that became a necessity during these times was getting comfortable with asynchronous communication. Since not everyone is available to communicate at all times, it is necessary to be a team player and try and adapt to others’ schedules as well. Asynchronous communication includes collaborative work, emails, and so on.
By inhibiting these qualities effectively, one can make a huge step towards becoming a good leader too, thus sharpening another soft skill - leadership.
This was our rough summary of skills that can help your student stand out from the others. You can also check out this additional list of unconventional skills to add to your resume.