Career Ready Skills: Nature or Nurture?

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Drawn and digitally photographed by Dr. G. McGough
Drawn and digitally photographed by Dr. G. McGough

Just the other day, I was discussing my podcasting project with a colleague. Our conversation focused on whether career skills are pre-programmed, genetically-inspired personality traits or abilities that can be taught and/or fostered: nature vs. nurture.

According to, a soft skill is…

An ability and capacity acquired through deliberate, systematic, and sustained effort to smoothly and adaptively carryout complex activities or job functions involving ideas (cognitive skills), things (technical skills), and/or people (interpersonal skills).

Can school students learn to develop the “soft skills” that are called for by most businesses and industries?

In the argument of nature versus nurture, I tend to side with “nurture” because of my belief in the presence of a “hidden curriculum.” There is a stratification of learning that occurs when a concept is taught in a public space. The social piece of delivery and assessment has a very subtle yet profound impact on the learner and his/her ability to work through new learning with compassion and thoughtfulness. Those individuals who want to teach “soft skills” need to be mindful of the “hidden curriculum” of their learning space.

I would like to dedicate this blog post to taking the 1Skill mentioned in my first podcast episode and demonstrate how to teach this “soft skill” …at least one employer thinks it is important. (If you would like to hear the podcast, please click here.)

During my interview with the student services coordinator, she mentioned the importance of “teachability.” Granted, there are some students who are just better suited to be learners, but can “teachability” be nurtured into existence?

The 1Skill podcast episode defines “teachability” as the ability to learn from one’s experiences and from others within an organization. How does one design a learning plan to teach and assess the skill?

Ahhhh, it is not WHAT one teaches rather it is HOW one sets up the assessment protocol.

Take any open-ended assignment that you currently teach and allow for “radical formative assessment,” the idea that the learner continues to fine tune the assessment until s/he finds success. Literally, they are encouraged to redo any aspect of the assignment for FULL credit. The teacher should just provide side comments that “hint” at the changes that need to be made. Allowing students to return to assignments to demonstrate learning of a concept fosters the attitude that one can learn through repeated trial and error and tutoring from those who understand.

When an educator establishes an environment where learning is open-ended, the “hidden curriculum” will help learners develop the soft skill of “teachability.”

Dr. Gregg McGough, CRI Blogger & Podcaster

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