Noncognitive skills in education: What we know and why they matter

Teacher Jenna Rosenberg speaks to her first grade class at Walsh Elementary School in Chicago, Illinois

Diane Schanzenbach, senior fellow in Economic Studies and director of The Hamilton Project, and Grover “Russ” Whitehurst, senior fellow in Economic Studies and the Center on Children and Families, discuss the importance of soft skills and the best policies and practices for teaching noncognitive skills to children.

“Everybody who looks at the evidence, and their intuitions, believes that soft skills are important.  I don’t think there’s any doubt that they can predict later outcomes – given a choice between two people with the same hard-skill set and one that’s easy to get along with, easy to work with, who are you going to choose? So these things are very important,” Whitehurst explains. “The question is what can schools in general be held accountable for in this area, and what can they themselves learn about how to impart these skills in ways that are efficient and effective?”

“Over the last twenty years, the labor market payoff to having math skills has gone up and the labor market payoff to having noncognitive skills has also gone up, but the increase in the payoff to having noncognitive skills has gone up by much more,” Schanzenbach says.

Related Links:

Seven facts on noncognitive skills from education to the labor market

Hard thinking on soft skills

Fourteen economic facts on education and economic opportunity

This policy would help poor kids more than universal pre-K does

More on soft skills: Time to Flit the grit

With thanks to audio producer Gaston Reboredo, Vanessa Sauter, Basseem Maleki, Fred Dews, and Richard Fawal.

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