Sung to the tune of "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off":
You say non-cognitive and I say socio-emotional,
You say initiative and I say self-direction,
Problem solving, critical thinking,
Let's call the whole thing off!
To be successful in school now and ready for college and careers later, young people need to develop a range of skills variously referred to as social-emotional, non-cognitive, soft or 21st century skills. In this basket of skills, you may think of self-confidence, perseverance, empathy, teamwork or critical thinking. There is increasing evidence that these skills are critical to success, but little agreement about how to label and measure them.
We have different terms for similar concepts, such as initiative and self-direction. We use the same term, like engagement, to mean different things, like motivation and participation. A recent report reminds us that "21st century skills" have been valuable for centuries. Another report laments the false dichotomy between academic "cognitive" factors and softer "non-cognitive" skills. Dr. Charles Smith, executive director of the Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality, referred to this terminological morass as a "jingle jangle jungle". But rather than call the whole thing off, let's get past labels and start to build shared understanding.
Here at the Extension Center for Youth Development, the Howland Endowment sponsors an endowed chair and a learning series designed to bridge research and practice around critical youth development issues. As part of the larger University and Extension efforts to address Minnesota's achievement and opportunity gaps, the next three-year series is dedicated to understanding social and emotional learning. The goals are enhanced understanding of the importance of social and emotional learning, increased consensus around common language and measures, and increased efforts to promote, assess, and support social and emotional learning in youth development programs.
On October 30, Dr. Roger Weissberg will present the first in this series of symposia, "Social and Emotional Learning: From research to strategies." Weissberg is president and CEO of the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), an international organization committed to making social and emotional learning an essential part of education.
Weissberg will share a rationale for making social and emotional learning an educational priority in the United States. He will describe recent research and proven strategies of how families, schools and communities are strengthening social and emotional skills as an essential part of every young person's learning and development. You can register for this event now and attend online or in person.
Which terms from the "jingle jangle jungle" resonate for you, and why? If you could focus on helping young people develop just one of these skills, which would you choose? (See how others answered this question when the Search Institute posed it in the Soft Skills Prioritization Poll.)
What is one thing (an action, a resource) that you hope would result from a multi-year focus on social and emotional learning?
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