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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

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Concrete Tools for Teaching Soft Skills

  1. 1. CONCRETE TOOLS FOR TEACHINGSOFT SKILLSThursday, April 11, 201310:15am – 11:30am
  2. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 11. DEFINING SOFT SKILLS “Non-cognitive skills” Interpersonal skills EQ Examples: self-advocacy, ambition, grit, responsibility, workethic, resilience
  12. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 17. CHALLENGES TO IMPLEMENTATION Teaching parents Time Focusing long-term School communication
  18. 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. 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. 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. 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?
  23. 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. 24. CONTACT INFORMATION Ashley Allen – Kristin Hatcher –