Non-cognitive skills are an increasingly popular topic in education. These include capabilities like perseverance, grit, self-efficacy, work ethic, and conscientiousness. Research shows that possessing them can affect both scholastic and life outcomes.
Their popularity and apparent effectiveness have led to calls on schools to pay more attention to these non-cognitive factors. These calls were answered in part by ESSA, which requires states to have an indicator of “school quality or student success” that goes beyond state standardized test scores and graduation rates. Sometimes referred to as the “nonacademic indicator,” the inclusion of this measure in federal requirements opened the door for schools to focus, at least in part, on non-cognitive skills. California’s CORE districts, for example, use a social-emotional learning metric that measures four non-cognitive competencies with student surveys.
But incorporating non-cognitive skills into schools is still quite difficult. Paul Tough, author of the widely-cited How Children Succeed, explained why in a 2016 Atlantic article:
But here’s the problem: For all our talk about noncognitive skills, nobody has yet found a reliable way to teach kids to be grittier or more resilient. And it has become clear, at the same time, that the educators...