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Two Cheers for ‘Non-Cognitive’ Skills

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March 10, 2014 02:10 pm

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In a new blog post for “Learning Deeply,” a blog hosted by Education Week, Robert Rothman – a senior fellow at the Alliance for Excellent Education – argues that students should be able to academically complete their schoolwork and also demonstrate higher order skills like self-monitoring and determination. Rothman points out that several notable thinkers, scholars, and even a Nobel Prize winner, have called these higher thinking skills “non-cognitive skills.” Rothman argues that the label is confusing and misleading and makes it harder to incorporate these necessary traits into the education system.

Rothman says, “Another reason the cognitive-non-cognitive dichotomy is problematic is the fact that such abilities are best demonstrated in the service of intellectual endeavors. We want students to be persistent and gritty and to set goals while doing their work. These abilities are not ends in themselves, but make it possible for students to perform higher levels of thinking and problem-solving.”

One way to combine these cognitive and “non-cognitive” skills is through deeper learning. In schools where deeper learning is employed, students are highly motivated to complete their work and to take responsibility for it and ownership of it. Rothman gives this example:

“For example, Edvisions schools, a network of schools based in Minnesota, requires all students to complete a senior project in order to graduate. These projects are highly motivating to students, and require students to develop and complete long-range plans, to persist and make course corrections when things get tough, and to consistently assess progress.”

Read Rothman’s full post, “Two Cheers for ‘Non-Cognitive Skills,” on the Learning Deeply blog.

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