Non-cognitive skills: what they are, types and examples

Non-cognitive skills are relatively independent of the subject’s intelligence, and it is important to work on and train them from childhood in order to achieve good social, cognitive and emotional development.

In this article we will describe what is meant by non-cognitive skills, we will see examples of some and we will present some techniques and programs that are used to work on and improve them.

    What are non-cognitive skills?

    Non-cognitive skills, also called socio-emotional skills, cover a wide range of skills or traits such as empathy, resilience, self-control, and personality traits such as extroversion or openness to experience.

    These skills they are independent of cognitive skills, that is, we can develop them even if these are impaired, but they are linked to each means that non-cognitive skills function as the basis for the proper functioning of cognitive abilities.

    In this way, non-cognitive skills allow us to learn and develop our knowledge and are essential for the child to develop well cognitively, emotionally and socially, maintaining the balance of these components. For this reason, given its characteristics, will be necessary for children to function and perform well in school and for the adult to be able to do a successful job in the workplace.

    These abilities, like most of the psychological abilities and characteristics of humans, are known to have a genetic component, although they also have an environmental influence. Thus, it will be possible to work on them, to train them, to improve and to enhance their presence in the subjects.

      What are non-cognitive skills?

      There are many, many non-cognitive skills which, as we have seen, will be essential for the development of the individual. So let’s get to know some of them better.

      1. Self-control

      Self-control is the ability to control yourself manage our thoughts, emotions and behavior in general taking into account our interests in the global sense (and not just paying attention to the here and now).

      To be able to speak of self-control, we must present two characteristics. The first is that at least two behaviors are involved where one will be the controlled response, i.e. the one we want to increase and another or other controllers, which allow us to increase the controlled response. . The other necessary element will be that there is or that there is a conflict of consequences between the different choices of behavior, this means that to accomplish this or that behavior has different consequences, has significant differences.

      In this way, we will speak of decision control when the conflict is resolved in the act or of prolonged self-control in which even while making the choice, the conflicting responses are constantly evaluated, we must continue to maintain a control behavior of self longer.

        2. Motivation

        Motivation is described as a union of forces which are responsible for initiate and direct the conduct of the individual. This is how, through motivation, we can try to understand, explain and change behavior. It is the one who sets a goal and pushes us to be able to achieve it.

        There are two main types of motivation; the intrinsic, which places its strength in the individual (that is to say that the subject makes behavior an end in itself, by the mere fact of doing so); and the extrinsic, where on the contrary the force or the motivation is fixed on the outside (the subject performs the behavior to obtain a reward, the activity alone does not motivate him).

          3. Empathy

          Empathy is the ability to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, identify and feel the other person’s emotions.. In this way, it goes well beyond the understanding of his capacities, it is necessary, as we have already said, to put oneself in the shoes of the other individual.

          This ability will gradually develop as we socialize. Likewise, it is an important element to be able to have an altruistic behavior.

            4. Resilience

            Resilience is defined as the ability of certain people who, despite being surrounded by risk factors, in unfavorable situations, have developed psychologically in a healthy and correct manner, with the ability to overcome different adversities and to lead a positive life organized or as we did. said healthy despite the complicated environment.

              5. Self-esteem

              Self-esteem means how we perceive ourselves, we assess and value ourselves.

              This capacity evolves and varies throughout the life of the subject. So, generally during preschool and adulthood, it will be when the individual has greater self-esteem; on the other hand, it tends to decrease when the subject enters school, during adolescence and old age.

                6. Perseverance

                Perseverance is the ability to stand firm in the pursuit of goals. In this way, we will also say that it is about being constant to achieve our set goals, that is, we must have a clear goal that justifies our dedication to achieve it.

                Despite the positive characteristics that this ability brings us, a misuse of this control or not, can end up being maladaptive and dysfunctional, because it can cause the subject to remain anchored to constantly perform an action, a behavior or achieve an unattainable goal, affecting its normal functioning.

                7. Social skills

                Social skills are a set of skills or competences that they allow us to interact and act appropriately in society and to be seen and appreciated positively by others.

                This is why, depending on the context, we have to adapt them, for example, not all cultures perceive and value different social skills in the same way.

                  8. Self-efficacy

                  Self-efficacy is self-confidence or the belief that the necessary conduct can be satisfactorily performed to achieve a desired goal or result.

                    9. Work ethics

                    Work ethics is defined as the ability to perceive that hard and hard work has moral benefit and that it helps us strengthen ourselves to achieve our goals.

                    10. Personality traits

                    Personality traits refer to both cognitions, emotions and behaviors. In short, the behavior that subjects tend to adopt consistently in different situations, staying in time.

                    There have been different authors who have made different classifications of personality traits, we will focus on which one is the big five. As its name suggests, this one describes 5 personality traits.

                    We fear extraversion, which is linked to the amount and intensity of interpersonal interactions; neuroticism, which is related to the degree of emotional adjustment; openness to experience, which has to do with a taste for the unknown and to live new experiences; responsibility, which refers to the ability to organize, to control oneself and to persist in achieving one’s goals; and kindness, related to social interaction in a positive and empathetic way.

                      How to train and develop non-cognitive skills

                      As we pointed out in the first section, non-cognitive skills have both a genetic component and an environmental component. It is for this reason that it will be important to work and train them to achieve a better function.

                      Thus, it is recommended that both the school and their parents teach and reinforce the use of non-cognitive skills from an early age, as these will be essential for a good cognitive, emotional and social cognitive development.

                      Thus, various activities or programs have been proposed. For example, organize assemblies or debates where students can give their opinion on different aspects of their school or their classmates, both positive and negative, and be able to suggest improvements. For this activity to be useful, the teacher must play the role of facilitator and ensure that all students participate.

                      Another technique we can use is role play, that is to say, ask the students in different situations to be the actors and practice what would be the most appropriate behaviors or behaviors. We can also use the technique of emotional cards which consists of cognitive and emotional work where each child expresses and represents the emotion of the card that touched him and thus joint learning can take place.

                      To continue to know and train the emotions, to make good use of them and a certain stability, you can also practice relaxation. For example, we can work with children to get to know and locate where they feel fear, where in the body, and then be able to express what they are feeling, what they are feeling and share the experience.

                      Finally, the University of Murcia has proposed a work program on non-cognitive skills called “Educating to Be”. It is aimed at the first cycles of education and ends in the last year of primary education. This program uses different stories, videos and activities where the different adventures of certain protagonists are told that will promote the learning of self-regulation skills.

                      Bibliographical references

                      • Soto, P. and Mínguez, R. (2017) Non-cognitive skills. determinants of academic success. University of Murcia. Virtual International Congress on 21st Century Education.
                      • Minguez, R. and Pedreño, M. (2016) Non-cognitive skills before socio-educational exclusion: an inventory of the issue. University of Murcia.
                      • Mendez, I. (2017) Non-cognitive skills for educational improvement and inclusion. University of Murcia.

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