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Why Should Academic Institutions Focus on Non-cognitive Skills?


Overall success of students is often adjudged by their performance in academic content and their intellectual capacity to process that material. This exercise, however, overlooks non-cognitive skills which complement cognitive factors and affect academic performance of students in equal proportion.
Non-cognitive or “soft skills” are related to individual’s temperament and attitudes, motivation, integrity, team work, perseverance and interpersonal interaction. In academic context, these include students’ belief about themselves, their feelings about school or their habits of self-control and offer promising levers for raising performance of non-achievers and bridging achievement gaps.
To reap big dividends in learning outcomes, it is imperative that educators build academic tenacity in students. Academic tenacity are the non-cognitive skills that allow students to abandon myopic approach to focus on longer-term or higher-order goals, and withstand challenges and setbacks to persevere towards these goals. In basic terms, it is about working hard and working smart for a long time.

Academic tenacity in students can be built by inculcating a growth mind set which focusses on learning goals and self-regulatory skills-

1. Mindset - Students’ perception about their academic ability and intelligence influences their academic tenacity. Students may perceive intelligence as a fixed quantity that they possess or lack ( a rigid mindset) or they may comprehend it as a malleable quantity capable of being increased with efforts and learning (a growth mindset). A growth mindset stimulates confidence in students that their efforts will pay-off in the longer run, thus affecting their long-term academic performance.

2. Goals - The kind of goals (performance or learning) that students’ endorse often foretells their academic achievement. Students with fixed mindset concentrate more on performance than learning. They tend to be result-oriented and focus entirely on tangible scores. Being extremely invested in performance goal and trying to avoid failures, however, is quite harmful and impede students’ intellectual development in the longer run. Students with growth mindset, on the other hand, pursue learning goals, indulge in experimentation, and persist on difficult academic tasks, developing their abilities readily.

3. Self-regulation - Self-regulatory skills have a major impact on academic tenacity of students. These allow students to rise above mundane distractions and momentary temptations to stay on task and to navigate difficulties in order to succeed in long-term.

Non-cognitive skills should, thus, be incorporated in students in schooling environment to ensure their long-term holistic development.

By Deeksha Shivhare
Sr. Executive DigiCom - Content
Redefine Marcom Pvt. Ltd.