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Vital to education: Non-cognitive skills

Depression 4
Depression 4 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I found Back to School (by the This American Life Team) an eye-opening podcast that makes a huge amount of sense. In part it asks, how much can we expect teachers to do?

Awareness of the importance of affective factors on cognitive abilities has been long-known, but this podcast focuses on "studies that show how poverty-related stress can affect brain development, and inhibit the development of non-cognitive skills".

There is a "growing body of research that 'non-cognitive skills' — qualities like tenacity, resilience, impulse control — are being viewed as increasingly vital in education". And, one of the positive points discussed was how non-cognitive skills can be taught to older students "who have gone much longer without learning things like self-control, conscientiousness and resilience".

The implications for curriculum design, facilitation and support of students of all ages, as well as assessment practices are huge. Would be good to hear your thoughts.

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Comment by Merryn Dunmill on September 20, 2012 at 12:45

What a relief to hear articulated what so many of us think and FEEL, even know from experience in relation to our persistent obsession in education with linear, limiting 'cognitive' testing in numeracy and literacy at the expense of the whole person.  The hierarchy of cognitive over 'non-cognitive' or other learning must change and a new ecological rather than economic focussed view of humanity needs to evolve...quickly. I'm still considering the descriptor 'character' for non-cognitive'... guess a new word will evolve!?

I'm still not convinced at the economic arguments that are so readily used to argue the points made but then that is likely the way to force change in today's world. Success is still attributed to money and rising out of poverty through education. At least in acknowledging the social characteristics of human development as equally important to cognitive, and the role of stress in impacting on learning, the paradigm shift we need to make can be realized.

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