Guiding Principles to Foster Soft Skills Among Adolescents and Young Adults
Although a broad consensus holds that increasing youth soft skills is critical to many development outcomes, the field lacks explanations of how to do this, especially at scale and among the most disadvantaged youth, with rigorous evidence of which practices are best for specific situations and groups.
The Guiding Principles for Building Soft and Life Skills in Adolescents and Young Adults report identifies guiding principles and strategies that foster soft skill development among adolescents and young adults, ages 12–29, across different program contexts and youth characteristics. It shows the most basic methods that enable youth soft skill development and explains why they are thought to be effective. The report also describes ways that the guiding principles can be used in programs and activities in out-of-school as well as formal education contexts. The research team reviewed the main findings of available synthesis literature — literature that summarizes findings/recommendations on how to develop soft skills among adolescents and young adults through programming.
Types of Soft-Skill-Building Programs
Youth gain opportunities to develop skills in many program contexts, in and out of school. Programs for out-of-school youth (both drop-outs and graduates) might develop soft skills through work readiness workshops, internships, apprenticeships, mentoring, community service projects, advocacy, and cooperatives. Programs for in-school youth outside of the academic classroom are diverse, including after-school and enrichment programs, sports, field trips, mentoring, and weekend and summer programs. In-school efforts include reforming academic curricula and teaching for more active learning and social-emotional skill development, as well as life or soft skills workshops and free-standing lessons. This broad programming reflects the importance of developing soft skills along the life span and implies that a wide range of adults — from parents and teachers, to counselors and coaches, to community leaders and employers — can foster and support youth soft skills development.
Key Guiding Principles
The report identified six Guiding Principles (insert graphic) that include:
Principle 1: Promote Experiential Learning (through challenge, experience, practice, and reflection)
Principle 2: Address Skills In Combination Rather Than in Isolation, Recognizing How They Interconnect
Principle 3: Promote Strong Relationships Between Adults and Youth And Among Youth Themselves
Principle 4: Promote Positive Staff Practices
Principle 5: Create A Safe, Caring, Supportive, and Enriching Program Environment
Principle 6: Promote Integration of Learning Contexts
Strategies to Foster Specific Skills and Contexts
The report provides different strategies to accomplish each principle and identifies strategies that could be used for the seven key soft skills identified in Key Soft Skills for Cross Sectoral Youth Outcomes.
The reports provides recommendations relating to program design for specific ages, different contexts and youth populations, different contexts within formal education, and formal education in low- and middle-income countries.
Elias, M. J., Zins, J. E., & Weissberg, R. P. (2000). Promoting social and emotional learning: Guidelines for educators. Adolescence, 35(137), 221.
Global Partnership for Youth Employment (GPYE) World Bank (IBRD); International Youth Foundation (IYF). (2014). Strengthening life skills for youth: a practical guide to quality programming.
Public Profit (2014). Strategies to Promote Non-Cognitive Skills: A Guide for Educators and Youth Developers. Available at: file:///C:/Users/fsoares/Downloads/Non-Cognitive%20Skills%20Guide%20(3).pdf
Smith, C., McGovern, G., Larson, R., Hillaker, B., Peck., S.C. (2016). Preparing Youth to Thrive: Promising Practices in Social Emotional Learning. Forum for Youth Investment, Washington, D.C.
Frameworks and Models
Guerra, N., Modecki, K., & Cunningham, W. (2014). Developing social-emotional skills for the labor market: The PRACTICE model. World Bank Policy Research Working Paper, (7123).
Nagaoka, J., Farrington, C. A., Ehrlich, S. B., & Heath, R. D. (2015). Foundations for Young Adult Success: A Developmental Framework. Concept Paper for Research and Practice. University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research.
Search Institute (2014). A Research Update from Search Institute: Developmental Relationships. Available at: https://www.search-institute.org/blog/research-update-developmental-relationships
Durlak, J. A., Weissberg, R. P., & Pachan, M. (2010). A meta‐analysis of after‐school programs that seek to promote personal and social skills in children and adolescents. American journal of community psychology, 45(3-4), 294-309.
Durlak, J. A., Weissberg, R. P., Dymnicki, A. B., Taylor, R. D., & Schellinger, K. B. (2011). The Impact of Enhancing Students’ Social and Emotional Learning: A Meta-Analysis of School-Based Universal Interventions: Social and Emotional Learning. Child Development, 82(1), 405–432.
Heckman, J. J., & Kautz, T. (2013). Fostering and measuring skills: Interventions that improve character and cognition (No. w19656). National Bureau of Economic Research.
Puerta, M. L. S., Valerio, A., & Bernal, M. G. (2016). Taking Stock of Programs to Develop Socio-Emotional Skills: A Systematic Review of Program Evidence. World Bank.