COVID-19 – How LearnWell can help hospitals, districts and families. Learn more..
Global problems. Pretty teenage girl standing next to her ecology teacher and sharing her opinion on the issue of deforestation while her classmate and teacher listening to her

By: Mary Ware

Is your hospital education program teaching “soft skills” in addition to academic skills? If so, then you are in good company with schools across the country. If not, did you know that in a national survey of parents, principals, teachers, and superintendents, 8 out of 10 respondents thought those skills should be also be assessed alongside academic skills?

It might be just enough to inspire programs to include instruction and assessment of soft skills in regular lesson plans.


What are soft skills?

Soft skills are the other nonacademic skills students acquire to help them succeed in life. They often include social emotional skills, critical thinking skills, and skills that facilitate positive interactions with others and the ability to overcome challenges.

In a NWEA survey completed by Gallup, 2,000 principals and superintendents, 1,000 parents and 1,000 teachers were surveyed to understand their perception of the importance of soft skills and assessment of said skills within the school system. The study sought to determine how those involved in our children’s education felt students were being prepared for their future. It attempted to establish what skills children will need to be successful, and how schools should go about assessing whether or not those needs were being met.

Some of the soft skills noted in the survey included:

  • The ability to apply what they [students] have learned in school to real-world situations
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Critical-thinking skills
  • The ability to view issues or problems from different perspectives
  • Teamwork (the ability to work well with others)

Overall, respondents indicated that soft skills are very important to cover, but the study also found that there is not a common understanding about how to go about the assessment process to see if students are receiving the instruction they require in this area.


Importance of Soft Skills for Students

Over 80% of respondents in each of the 4 populations (principals, parents, teachers and superintendents) indicated that it was equally as important to assess both academic and non academic skills. And the workforce seems to agree. The study noted previous research that demonstrated 60% of employers felt a broad range of skills were important for recent college graduates to achieve long-term career success.

Having a nonacademic skillset is important for student-patients as well. The students who receive educational services in an alternative or hospital setting face a wide range of challenges that can impact their learning and ability to participate successfully in the social aspect of school and society as well. It is vital to the student’s success that they learn how to navigate and overcome personal challenges, and expand their social emotional skills to understand and work around issues they may face as a result of, or in conjunction with, their diagnosis.

Fostering problem-solving skills, teamwork and critical thinking skills also provides an opportunity for students to be successful in a new area, therefore having the potential to boost their confidence and ability to connect with and lead groups of peers in activities.


How to incorporate soft skills into a hospital education curriculum

There are many ways that hospital teachers can promote nonacademic learning during lessons. One such way is to include students in problem solving issues that may arise related to their own academic work.

Completing homework assignments in an alternative environment can be challenging—at times students/facilities may not possess the right tools or equipment to complete a task the same way their peers might. Teachers can encourage students to problem-solve and come up with alternative pathways or solutions that will yield similar results.

Daily prompts and warm-up activities are also opportunities to foster critical thinking and social emotional skill building. Journal prompts, discussing current events and tackling riddles and other investigative challenges can boost these skills in an easy and enjoyable manner, while helping to get students right to work upon entering a classroom.

Hospital teachers have a unique opportunity to meet students at critical points in their lives—whether undergoing necessary treatment or in crisis—and by encouraging growth in both academic and nonacademic skills, they can help students maintain academic progress while supporting their development for future success in all aspects of life.