Erin Paul-Schuetter took a course on soft skills, and she’s shared a summary of her experience below. What are some ways you might be able to incorporate these ideas – critical thinking, communication, self-motivated learning and teamwork – in your own courses? Thanks, Erin, for sharing what you learned!
Summary of Soft Skills Course
This past fall I took Matthew Hora’s online course, Teaching Soft Skills in College Courses Certificate. My motivation for enrolling in the DCS course was both intrinsic and extrinsic; as an educator hoping to stay current with the needs of 21st century students, I wanted to learn ways to incorporate these skills into the Spanish language and literature courses I teach for Independent Learning. I believed that doing this would, in turn, help me be prepared for upcoming course revisions by incorporating the skills that many employers are asking for today. This course helped me reach those goals and exceeded them in many respects as well. What follows is a brief summary of the course from my perspective as a student and a testimonial of my experience. I hope this will prompt you to think a bit more about where these skills can fit into your classes.
As the course summary states (you can find it here), this online certificate provides research, theory and frameworks to introduce each of the four “soft” skills: critical thinking, communication, self-motivated learning and teamwork. The readings, video lectures and web resources helped establish a base of knowledge that could be used to provide a rationale for why a particular skill is practiced in the course. Furthermore, the practical suggestions given in the course materials could easily be incorporated into a classroom activity, syllabus, or lesson plan. I can’t stress the practical nature of the course enough; we were encouraged to take what we had learned from the assigned texts and course lectures and videos and apply it to the curricular artifact we had chosen to revise to incorporate at least one or more of the soft skills.
For the final project I chose to revise the syllabus for an existing Spanish literature survey course I teach online. I wanted to overhaul the course objectives so that my students would see the practical and real-world skills they could develop and hone within the context of studying Spanish literature, even if this is a course they take as a degree requirement. In the end I came up with a set of course objectives that focus in on the skills employers are searching for in today’s global economy: critical thinking, communication, and self-motivated learning. (Teamwork was something I had to leave out since my course is asynchronous with students having six months to complete the requirements at their own pace.) In the process I came up with some activities to practice these skills that I intend to use in this class and others: mini check-ins scattered throughout the course that give students the space to monitor their progress and think about how they can actively work toward achieving their personal learning goals (self-motivated learning), a step-by-step guide to identifying the reliability of an online or print source (critical thinking), and practice revising one’s work in a foreign language (communication).
Regardless of the discipline, the practical knowledge gained from this course can help reinvigorate any course with a focus on 21st century skills.