Developing Non-Academic Skills

23 Aug 2018 12:23 PM

Non-academic skills exist alongside academic knowledge and abilities, and can include empathy, communication, and resilience. They have also been called 'life', 'non-cognitive' or 'essential' skills. Non-academic skills are associated with a range of positive outcomes across education, work, health and wellbeing, such as higher academic attainment, improved employability, and better physical and mental health. This POSTnote reviews evidence on the outcomes associated with non-academic skills and effective educational approaches to developing these skills in and out of the school environment.

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Although there is no universal definition, non-academic skills are generally considered to include attitudes and values, social and emotional skills, creative skills, and metacognitive skills (the skills used in thinking about thinking).  Isolating individual non-academic skills can be difficult as they interact and overlap with each other. They also work alongside traditional academic skills. For example, creative skills can be used in academic subjects, such as Art and Design. Non-academic skills are associated with a range of beneficial outcomes, such as positive self-image, increased empathy, and reduced levels of anti-social behaviour. Evidence on the outcomes of developing non-academic skills comes from randomised control trials (where individuals are randomly assigned interventions to improve their skills) and longitudinal studies, which track individuals' outcomes across their lifetimes. There has been more research on non-academic skills internationally, such as in the US, than in UK.

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 *Denotes people and organisations who acted as external reviewers of the briefing.

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