Blog for Parents

Measures of Success: A Debate of Social Intelligence vs Cognitive Skills

“Charlie’s a what? A multi-millionaire?” I blurted out during our 25th high school reunion. A fun, sweet kid… who would have “thunk”? Nice and charming to be with, but surely not someone with outstanding brainpower.

On my drive home, I realized that the brilliant kids didn’t necessarily outshine the ordinary ones after being in the trenches for 20 years. The successful “Stevens” and the “Charlies” of my youth had something else: “soft skills” which are measures of success rather than the super-strong cognitive skills for which our school system so urgently prepares our youth.

With the onslaught of over-testing, are we wasting our time with drill and kill when we should be encouraging social intelligence: empathy, curiosity, resiliency, grit, verbal communication, interpersonal skills, emotional maturity, persistence, and self-control? For these seem to be a more reliable indicator of success ( Presently, the University of Notre Dame and Harvard University are just a few collegiate institutions that are embracing non-cognitive assessments.

Here is What We Have Learned from Previous Studies

  • Academic perseverance is more important than intelligence. (Duckworth, Peterson, Matthews, & Kelly, 2007)
  • Grit and self-control yield higher grade point averages, despite a low, SAT score. These students attend class more regularly and stay on task. Gender gaps diminished greatly when students were categorized according to these measures.  (Glei, 2011)
  • Agreeableness, emotional stability, conscientiousness, and autonomy are qualities that the general labor force finds relevant for school preparation.  (Brunello & Schlotter, 2011)

In 2012, data collected by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) was used by The Argumentation Factory to create a great visual map of non-cognitive skills. Click here to view their pdf map and educational policy recommendations.

ACT and ETS now offer the ACT ENGAGE test that measures motivation, self-regulation, social engagement, commitment to college, goal striving, and academic-confidence for students in grades 6 – College.

For a more in-depth account of how to develop non-cognitive skills, how these skills are reshaping college admission, examining self-evaluations and essays, writing resumes, and how to shine in an interview, please read OnlineSchools’ latest article on noncognitive measures.

Thank you, OnlineSchools for sharing this information with us!