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Concrete Tools for Teaching Soft Skills
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Concrete Tools for Teaching Soft Skills

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Presented at the 2013 NPEA conference in Boston, MA on April 11, 2013 by Horizons for Youth

Presented at the 2013 NPEA conference in Boston, MA on April 11, 2013 by Horizons for Youth


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  • 1. CONCRETE TOOLS FOR TEACHINGSOFT SKILLSThursday, April 11, 201310:15am – 11:30am
  • 2. WORKSHOP GOALS Develop an understanding of the biological effectsof poverty on low income students Demonstrate the importance of soft skills in relationto secondary and post-secondary success Outline the process for developing soft skillsfocused programming and evaluative tools Identify ways to incorporate soft skills into currentacademic programming both formally and informally
  • 3. ACE SCORES ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) Study Vincent Felitti and Robert Anda -1990s; Nadine Burke Harris -1995 Studies showed a strong correlation betweenadverse childhood experiences and negative adultoutcomes Higher ACE scores correlated to worse adultoutcomes on almost every measure from addictivebehavior to chronic disease
  • 4. ACE SCORES ACE scores of 4 or more: Twice as likely to smoke 7 times more likely to be alcoholics 7 times more likely to have had sex before age 15 Twice as likely to have cancer, heart disease, or liverdisease Four times as likely to have emphysema or chronicbronchitis Disturbingly powerful correlation between ACEscores and problems in school
  • 5. EFFECTS OF HIGH ACE SCORES Behavioral issues Northwestern University Study Psychiatric evaluations of 1,000 juvenile detainees 84% experienced 2 or more serious childhood traumas Majority of detainees had experienced 6 or more Brain development Bruce McEwen research Long-term effects of stress in childhood brain development Area of the brain most effected: prefrontal cortex Controls self-regulation Children with stress find it harder to concentrate, sit still, reboundfrom disappointment and follow directions Stress overload can affect emotional and cognitive regulations Negatively affects executive functioning
  • 6. EXECUTIVE FUNCTIONING Executive functioning - collection of higher order mentalabilities that enable you to deal with confusing andunpredictable situations and information Executive functioning skills are highly predictive ofsuccess AND ARE MALLEABLE Prefrontal cortex – the area of the brain that controlsexecutive functioning ability - is more responsive thanother parts of the brain and stays flexible intoadolescence and early adulthood
  • 7. PROTECTION FROM CHILDHOOD STRESS The single strongest safeguard againstchildhood stress is a strong parentingrelationship Parents and caregivers who form close, nurturingrelationships with children can foster resilience Resilience protects children from harmful effects ofstress in early childhood Has positive psychological and biochemicalbenefits
  • 8. ATTACHMENT THEORY Alan Sroufe and Byron Egeland studied peoplefrom birth to late thirties (2005 report) Result - attachment status at 1 year of age waspredictive of a range of life outcomes Secure attachment early resulted in more socialcompetence 2 out of 3 children with disengaged parents neededspecial education or were held back grade(s) Attachment status was more predictive of highschool graduation than IQ or achievement testscores
  • 9. ATTACHMENT CONTINUED Alicia Lieberman Study – 1970 Extraordinarily difficult for parents in stressful conditionsto form secure attachments given the dailyuncertainty, worry and fear that permeate their lives Even more difficult for a new parent to form secureattachment if her own mother had not Parents can overcome histories of trauma and poorattachment – they can change their approach andstill create secure attachment and healthyfunctioning Some parents can accomplish this switch on theirown, but most need help Development of secure attachment even later inchildhood still has strong and lasting effects
  • 10. REDEFINING CHARACTER Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson Character previously believed to be innate and unchanging – aperson’s core set of attributes that they had at birth Redefined character as a set of abilities that are malleable –skills you can learn, skills you can practice, skills that can betaught Identified 7 specific traits needed for success in school: Self-control Grit Zest Social Intelligence Gratitude Optimism Curiosity
  • 11. DEFINING SOFT SKILLS “Non-cognitive skills” Interpersonal skills EQ Examples: self-advocacy, ambition, grit, responsibility, workethic, resilience
  • 12. EXAMPLE: IMPORTANCE OF GRIT Angela Duckworth Study of self-discipline found students’ discipline scoresbetter predictors of GPA than IQ scores Grit: a passionate commitment to a single mission andan unswerving dedication to achieve that mission Measurement tool - grit scale - predictive of success High grit enables college students with lower college-boardscores to still earn high GPAs Grit scale proved more predictive of success for 1200West Point cadets than the complex evaluation systemused by the military academy
  • 13. THE GOOD NEWS Character traits are highly predictive of successand can be taught Two key times for intervention Early Childhood Adolescence Parents, caregivers, teachers can all beinstruments for teaching character Mentors in adolescence can make a hugedifference
  • 14. HORIZONS FOR YOUTH: BRIEF BACKGROUNDINFORMATION High school program began 2009 Vast majority of our high school students andcollege alumni struggle to self-advocate andproblem solve Need to be taught soft skills Since our mission is college completion, somethinghad to be done
  • 15. THE HORIZONS FOR YOUTH STRATEGY Long-term project Team effort Teaching self-advocacy Teaching parents how to teach their children to do thesame is just as important Critical and honest feedback Both formal and informal supports and interventions Formal – i.e. summer program character slips Informal – i.e. mentors teach curiosity through outingexperiences Letting them fail – “Losing is something you do, notsomething you are.”
  • 16. THE HORIZONS FOR YOUTH STRATEGY “The Big Three”: Culture building The Road Map to College Spells out specific, developmentally appropriate actionsthat demonstrate the Big Three Includes the purpose of each expectation – why Includes continuing and forthcoming expectations Uses age appropriate language Examples: Fourth grade and ninth grade Opportunities to practice Monthly outings Summer program Fundraisers and other events
  • 17. CHALLENGES TO IMPLEMENTATION Teaching parents Time Focusing long-term School communication
  • 18. THE HORIZONS FOR YOUTH STRATEGY Next steps Additional opportunities to incorporate The Road Mapboth formally and informally Revisions and additions Use of The Road Map as an evaluation tool Continue to coach parents and mentors Add visual reminders around our office
  • 19. STEPS FOR INCORPORATING SOFT SKILLS Define desired outcomes Review current programming Where are you already building these skills? Where could they be easily incorporated into existingprograms? What additional training is needed to address any gaps?
  • 20. STEPS FOR INCORPORATING SOFT SKILLS Building a culture of soft skills development Considerations Leaders and staff – must be on board Parents Students Volunteers
  • 21. QUESTIONS AND WRAP UP What will be your biggest challenges inimplementing soft skills programming? Have you found any additional resources that maybe helpful in teaching soft skills?
  • 22. OTHER SUCCESSFUL APPROACHES
  • 23. RESOURCES How Children Succeed – Paul Tough Grit Test – Angela Duckworth Mindset – Carol Dweck Teaching Adolescents To Become Learners – The University of ChicagoConsortium on Chicago School Research Smart But Scattered – Peg Dawson and Richard Guare Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most –Stone, Patton, Heen
  • 24. CONTACT INFORMATION Ashley Allen – ashley@horizons-for-youth.org Kristin Hatcher – kristin@horizons-for-youth.orgwww.horizons-for-youth.org