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soft skills

How does the human factor in the classroom relate to the soft skills students need to learn to be effective in the work environment?

Hi Joseph,
This area is an easy one for discussion. The instructor has to model the soft skills that are necessary for success in that field. In addition, the instructional process needs to include activities that allow the students to practice the soft skills until they become habit with them. The activities can range from role playing to behavior and conduct in the classroom.

I think that when you stand in front of a group of adults as an instructor, you automatically are assumed to be a role model. One can quickly lose this prestigious position, however, if he or she does not act like a human with a personality. Students want you to talk TO them, not AT them. I frequently share my personal experiences with them, and it really seems to work. They like knowing that the instructor is actually a real person with opinions, feelings, experiences, etc.

Hi Kim,
Right you are about having the students see you as a real person. Students seem to forget that all of us instructors are former students ourselves. We have had our challenges and successes both as students as well as workers in our respective fields. By sharing personal and professionals experiences we can help to create a level of respect for ourselves with our students.
As role models we must remember that we are always “on” even in informal hallway conversations. We must never do anything that will tarnish that reputation. When we make mistakes we can admit them and then move on, we are after all humans.
We must maintain the balance of being human, professional and respected while imparting the course content. No small job. You are on the right track with your comments.

If students perceive an instructor as someone who is open, fair-minded, and interested in them as individuals it hopefully will translate into behavior that will be modeled in the work environment. Everyone values working with individuals who are concerned about the greater good for co-workers. The human factor teaches students to look outside themselves and share ideas without fully concentrating on personal gain from interaction with co-workers and customers/patients.

Hi Louis,
Very well stated concerning what students look for in an instructor. As we are involved in career preparation and trying to model work behavior as well as professional educator behavior our students need to see us as both. Sometimes students get caught up in class requirements and the demands that an instructor makes on them and they don't see that they are being pushed in a direction that will enable them to succeed. They are no longer in a high school setting and sometimes they forget that. They need to see us as caring professionals and themselves as novices gaining the skills and knowledge to enter the field in which we teach.

I ask students ot treat their course work like a job, and then relate different subjects to how they would be acheived in the workplace. Theory can then also be illustated with the practical ways one accomplishes the things grounded in theory.

Hi Matthew,
You hit upon a key point with students, that is treat their course work like a job.
As you well know they often complain about the work they have to do, missing the point of why they are studying and/or doing a particular project. If they can be shown the end result of all their work they will see the application. We as instructors, have to work hard at making sure that the assignments we have are realistic and relevant to our students' needs.

Dr. Meers,

This is an ongoing discussion here. Many of our students have a good grasp of the content matter, but as instructors, we are concerned with the lack of those "soft" skills.

I find it interesting how even though many instructors would include their "soft" skills as a key to success, it does not make its way into the classroom.

All that being said, how much of a given class would you devote to "soft" skills. Obviously, we would want to weave it into the narrative that is our classroom, but how much? Any suggestions?


Hi Josefer,
Great question about soft skills, though hard to answer. It all depends on the “teachable” moment. That is I use the rule of when it is opportune insert the soft skills. I break the soft skills down into categories as well. Example attendance and being on time. I try and treat the classroom the same as a job in that respect. I want the students there on time and ready to start class and in return I will start the class right on time. I have the students develop their communication skills in direct relation to how they will be working with customers, patients, etc. So I don't have a clear time frame for how much time I devote to the soft skills.
I deal with all aspects of the soft skills that includes appropriate language, dress, etc. when it occurs. I have found that the students respond very well to this because many of them have never had role models from which they could learn what is appropriate.

We frequently have comments from externship sites about the lack of those "soft skills." Even by examples incorporated in the classroom, how do you teach students in a 9-15 month period about soft skills when in their 20 plus years they have not had good role models?

Hi LaVerne,
Great question, hard to answer. Based upon my experience I try to break down the "soft skills" into small components and work on those each time the class meets. Example, attendance. I develop a set of incentives for the students that appeal to them and their needs. It may be points, it may be snacks, it may be study time, anything that will help the student to develop proper attendance patterns. Then I move onto dress or language. In addition, I model each and every day the behavior I want from my students.
For a number of years I was involved in preparing incarcerated adults to return to the work and community setting. Their biggest problem as you can imagine was that of proper social behavior, especially in the workplace.
20 years of poor models is really hard to overcome but the small steps toward soft skill development do make a difference.

I have my students treat our lab time as a real live shop. The student is put in the place of a live job and I as the manager. In the class room the atmosphere is a profesional one. So I would say that you are always working on thier soft skills even if you or they do not realize.

Hi Scott,
You are correct about teaching the soft skills all of the time. For many students there is a need to offer soft skill acquistion in a variety of settings so they can see the many different applications of being a quality professional in their field.

In the short time I have been in education, it surprised me in the begining the professionalism was something I would have to teach adults. We create the most realistic lab situations possible and discuss appropriate actions.

I try to tell stories, something that has happened to me in my business life, that relates to a point that I am trying to make. This seems to be valuable

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