Evaluating Soft Skills

IHE_SoftSkillsAfter reading the article Grading Personal Responsibility in Inside Higher Ed, I started to realize that I have been asking my developmental college students to change their behaviors without holding them accountable for doing just that.

Why, why, why haven’t I thought of this before?! Of course we need to grade unprepared college students on the things that matter most, the things that are most essential to their success, the very things we so very badly want them to do. So what are those things? I made a list:

1. Attend class.

2. Manage their time wisely.

3.  Have a professional demeanor.

4. Communicate clearly.

5. Try.

6. Participate.

7. Be prepared.

8. Persevere when things get tough.

In comparison, these are the things they are graded on.

    • showing up
    • turning in assignments

If they come to class– literally, just show up– they earn 30% of their grade. I agree that showing up is half of the battle, but just showing up is not going to prepare them for their first year of college.

Another concern is, what if a student does not turn in an assignment? I will not have time to have a lengthy conversation about why he/she did not complete the assignment. Unfortunately, the student will receive a zero and the course will continue, most likely leaving the student discouraged and even less likely to succeed.

I want them to think about why they did not complete the assignment. Was it because they didn’t read the required material? They tried to read but did not comprehend? Was it because they didn’t manage their time properly? Did they not have the resources required? What problem can they fix that will lead to assignments being turned in in the future?

In order to improve, we must understand where the gaps are. What areas need improvement? We must also know what is causing those performance gaps if we are to close them and improve our performance.

I want to help my students understand where their gaps are and what is causing them, so I have decided to implement a Readiness Skills Rubric, modeled after A-B Tech’s template, that addresses the skills required for success. I will introduce the rubric the first week of class and have them score themselves in each category at the end of class every week. In addition, they will respond to 7 questions that prompt them to reflect on their score, how they feel about their progress, what is causing any low scores, and their plan for improving their performance the next week. My hope is that this exercise will increase their meta-cognition and self-efficacy, allowing them to see the gaps. Ideally, the skills they learn in the class, if applied correctly, will help them close those gaps and experience success.

Here is the rubric I plan to implement. I will write a follow-up post that discusses its effectiveness.


Assessment Levels










Class Attendance (demonstrates self- management)

I attend 100% of classes.

I rarely miss class; I notify the instructor prior to absences; I submit my work via email so that it is not late.

I attend class less than the required amount of time. I do not tell my instructor ahead of time that I will be absent. I turn in my work, but it might be late.

I am frequently absent and do not communicate with the instructor. I do not try to make up my work.

Time Management
punctual attendance; turns in work on time

I am always on time for class; My work is always turned in on time; I demonstrate self-responsibility.

I am almost always on time for class and turn in my work on time.

Sometimes I am late for class or turn my assignments in late.

I am usually late for class or do not turn in work on time.

Professionalism behavior, attitude, personal presentation

I always demonstrate a positive attitude, self-control, good personal presentation and the traits of a master student.

 I usually demonstrate a positive attitude, self-control, personal presentation and most of the master student traits.

I am sometimes reluctant to embrace new ideas and skills; I need to work harder to remain positive; I must continue to learn how to become a master student.

I resist new ideas and skills; I am rarely positive; I present myself poorly; I have not adopted any master student traits.

listening; oral & written; creator vs. victim language

I always use clear, organized language; I effectively exchange ideas and information; I use creator language.

I usually use clear/organized language for exchanging ideas and information; I mostly use creator language.

I sometimes use clear/organized language for exchanging ideas and information; I am still learning to use creator language.

I demonstrate poor use of communication and listening skills; I mostly use victim language.

Quality of Work
class academic performance

I consistently give my best effort; I always turn in high-quality work.

I usually give my best effort and consistently complete my work to the best of my ability.

I demonstrate minimal effort; my work is sometimes incomplete.

I do not put forth any effort when completing my assignments. When I do complete assignments, they are very low-quality.

working with others, class discussion, Interdependence

I do not judge others. I approach my classmates as teammates. We help each other learn and grow. I provide thoughtful responses during class discussions.

I work well with others; I participate in class discussions, I understand that others can help me achieve my goals or understand concepts.

I don’t like working with others, but I do it anyway. I rarely contribute thoughtfully during class discussions.

I refuse to work with others. I never participate during class discussions.

Exhibits strong work ethic; preparedness

I always complete the required weekly readings and assignments; I bring my book, completed homework, paper, writing utensil, planner and folder to class every week. I always take notes each week and review them before class.

I almost always complete the required readings and assignments; I almost always bring my book, completed homework, paper, and a writing utensil. I usually take notes each week and review them before class.

Sometimes I do not read or complete all assignments before class. I must make more time to prepare for class each week. If I take notes during class, I sometimes lose them or never look at them again.

I frequently do not come to class prepared; I do not complete the required readings or assignments in preparation for each week. I do not take notes during class.

Critical Thinking
Strong problem solving skills; adaptation to change

I always consider how a problem can be solved and implement an appropriate solution; I find that I can easily adapt to change; I often ask for assistance.

I can usually address a problem logically and select an appropriate solution; I am pretty comfortable with change; I ask for assistance when necessary.

I sometimes try to solve problems; I am uncomfortable with change; I rarely seek assistance when I need it.

I consistently avoid problem solving; I do not seek assistance.


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