Assessment Of Soft Skills As Part Of Holistic Learner Assessment


What exactly are soft skills?

The term “soft skills” refers to psychosocial skills which other people call peoples skills or interpersonal skills. Soft skills can be said to incorporate all aspects of generic skills that include the cognitive elements associated with non-academic skills. They are the behavioural competencies related to a person’s Emotional Intelligence, that enables one to interact with and influence others, be they team mates, customers, suppliers or adversaries. They include communication, creative problem solving, strategic thinking, team building, conflict resolution, time management.

Why are soft skills so important?

No doubt, teaching life skills is important for the promotion of socialization, preparation of young people for changing social circumstances, promotion of lifelong learning, promotion of peace, among others, culminating in the overall quality of life.

It is not enough for an organisation to have employees of the highest level of knowledge and expertise within the team. They also need to have the peoples’ skills, which complement the employee’s technical skills, to successfully execute their job, resulting in the success or failure of an organization. So hiring with soft skills in mind is the obvious way to gain competitive advantage.

Soft skills are identified to be the most critical skills in the current global job market especially in a fast moving era of technology. It is often said what differentiates two companies operating within the same industry is the extent of entrenchment of soft skills in their employees. Likewise, a nation’s competitive power depends on the stable supply of highly qualified human resources.

How to teach soft skills

In the olden days in Africa, soft skills teaching was entrenched in our culture and delegated to the family. Children were taught the way they conduct themselves, the way they express themselves, the way they interact with others. Such teaching was supported by a strong cultural system which enforced their implementation.

For so long, the school system emphasized the teaching of the hard skills and hardly of the soft skills, yet their teaching compliments the learning of hard skills. However, little did we realize that modernization was eroding the bedrock of productivity. We have learnt the hard way, that education does not concern itself only with cognitive development, but also with accumulation of particular values, attitudes, and skills. Therefore, quality education should fulfil the acquisition of all these. The move from the traditional teaching and learning to competency-based or outcome-based curriculum is one attempt to incorporate soft skills teaching and learning.

Soft skills are generic and cut across all subjects and the best way to teach them is through embedding them in the subjects’ content matter. They cannot be taught as stand-alone topics, as learners are likely to pretend to possess the necessary soft skills. Although we can lecture to learners about responsibility, they are effectively imparted when infused in a subject’s topic which lands itself to exposing learners or requiring learners to act responsibly or show responsible actions.

How to assess soft skills

Soft skills have short-lived evidence, which makes them more difficult to assess. As such they can only be appropriately assessed formatively at school level, by the subject teacher, when learners are engaged in creating the product under varying contexts. Therefore, assessment should not be crafted as one-fits all. Various modes and strategies should be employed to effectively assess soft skills, which include interviews, questionnaires, checklists, rating scales, multiple assessment, multiple assessors, self-assessment, among others. For further elaboration, visit:

Learners should be assessed holistically to enable them realise their potential and nurture them. Join us in our next article as we deliberate on the conduct of national assessment.

Yes, it’s possible!


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