THE IMPORTANCE OF SOFT SKILLS IN DISTANCE LEARNING

In the realization of the IO1 of the MYSS project, consortium partners highlighted the importance of soft skills. These are an unavoidable element for any didactic approach, and even more so in a distance teaching.

In 2000 Spencer Kagan wrote about how the profound historical-economic-social transformations led to a didactic intervention focused on new teaching methods and  on the acquisition of cognitive skills, declining to “knowledge” – in a reality that sees a continuous and rapid revision of information –  a more marginal role. Cognitive skills in fact  are suitable for “preparing our students to act by adapting to a very wide variety of social situations [1]“.

As a result a different perspective began to develop, definitively formalized in 2018, when the Council of the European Union intended to underline the need, for each individual, to possess a “varied set of skills and competences to be acquired since childhood with continuity, progression and in different learning contexts[2]”. From this perspective , a key aspect of the process emerges, represented by the acquisition of the so-called “soft skills”: those personal characteristics applicable in any school / work / daily context and which concern the modus operandi implemented each time on the basis of the demands of the school or work environment.

According to AlmaLaurea[3], there are 14 soft skills:

  1. AUTONOMY: the ability to carry out the assigned tasks by using only one’s own resources.
  2. SELF-CONFIDENCE: the awareness of one’s own worth, one’s abilities and one’s ideas beyond the opinions of others.
  3. FLEXIBILITY / ADAPTABILITY: the ability to know how to adapt to changing working contexts, to be open to news and available to collaborate with people with points of view also different from one’s own.
  4. STRESS RESISTANCE: the ability to react positively to work pressure while maintaining control.
  5. ABILITY TO PLAN AND ORGANIZE: identifying objectives and priorities.
  6. PRECISION / ATTENTION TO DETAILS: the attitude to be accurate, diligent and attentive to what you do, taking care of the details towards the final result.
  7. CONTINUOUS LEARNING: recognizing one’s gaps and areas for improvement in order to acquire and improve one’s knowledge and skills.
  8. ACHIEVE GOALS: the commitment, the ability, the determination that are put into achieving the assigned goals and, if possible, exceed them.
  9. MANAGE INFORMATION: acquire, organize and effectively reformulate data and knowledge from different sources, towards a defined goal.
  10. BEING ENTERPRISING / SPIRIT OF INITIATIVE: developing ideas and knowing how to organize them for the realization of projects, even taking risks in order to succeed.
  11. HAVING COMMUNICATION SKILLS: to transmit and share ideas and information in a clear and concise way with all interlocutors, to listen and to effectively interact with them.
  12. PROBLEM SOLVING: an approach to work which, by identifying priorities and criticalities, allows to identify the possible best solutions to problems.
  13. TEAM WORK: the willingness to work and collaborate with others, to build positive relationships aimed at achieving the assigned task.
  14. LEADERSHIP: the innate ability to lead, motivate and lead people towards ambitious goals and objectives, creating consensus and trust.
People choosing and picking up wooden figure from a group on the table

Soft skills represent not only a radical change of perspective, but a useful opportunity to reconsider the way of conceiving education and training for a concrete and effective impact in the professional field. In support of what has been said, a well-known research by the Stanford Research Institute International and the Carnegie Mellon Foundation has shown that 75% of professional success is directly related to the mastery of soft skills and only 25% instead depends on hard skills (or “technical skills”)[4]. Taking into account this, it is therefore hoped that we can,  as soon as possible, trigger the process – also in terms of pedagogical revisionism – of implementation of “cognitive skills”, not only in methodological terms to make the” school environment” today more stimulating, attractive and effective, but also to improve efficiency, competitiveness and satisfaction in the world of work in the near future.


[1] S. Kagan, Cooperative learning: the structural approach, Edizioni Lavoro, Rome 2000, p. 30 .

[2] National Directions and New Scenarios, February 22, 2018, Key Competencies for Lifelong Learning New European Framework May 22, 2018, pages 3-5.

[3] AlmaLaurea is a Interuniversity Consortium established in 1994 and currently counts 78 Universities as members (with the process of membership currently in the decision stage for 3 other ones) and represents about 90% of Italian graduates.

[4] S. Vasanthakumari. (2019). Soft skills and its application in work place. World Journal of Advanced Research and Reviews, 3(2), 66-72.

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