Many of us talk about wanting to develop our students.
We want them to learn and grow tremendously throughout college, so that their lives change not just be owning a fancy diploma but through having meaningful experiences.
Yet, we may forget to consider what the “development” buzzword really means. Having a goal to “help students learn” or “develop students as people” won’t get you (nor your students) very far.
It would be like telling your GPS to direct you “far away” without providing a destination. Your poor GPS wouldn’t know where to even start nor be able to alert you when you’ve made it anywhere worthwhile.
That’s where skills come in. “Student growth” isn’t specific enough of an ultimate goal. You need to define that growth through skills.
Skills-based learning will give students something concrete to brag about, appreciate about themselves, and perhaps most importantly, sell themselves to employers on.
You could probably name some broad skill categories at the top of your head, such as: Organizational, communication, teamwork, and of course, the ever-so-popular leadership skills.
But, to be truly impactful, these categories need to be narrowed down further. What, exactly, should a student be good at in order to be an exceptional communicator, team player, or leader? What tasks should they be able to handle or personality traits should they display?
A student who says “I’m a good leader”, for example, won’t be nearly as impressive to an employer as one who is able to articulate their “ability to motivate teammates through long-term goal-setting.” And a student proclaiming “I’m a great program planner” won’t sell themselves as well as someone who can share specific stories about delegation.
So, I’d like to provide you with some ideas — 158 skills to be precise.
I’m not advising you to reinvent the wheel (or your campus activities calendar) to help students attain these skills. You don’t need to create 158 revolutionary programs. Rather, you can work with what you already have. It’s surely quite a lot!
Consider, for example, your annual student organization fair. Ta-dah! You cover many skills there! The fair requires the leaders of each org to brainstorm ideas, assess others’ needs, look for interpersonal connections, and create savvy advertising/marketing plans.
Point these skills out to students. Congratulate them on their progress and implore them to keep learning.
Plus, through a student engagement platform, you can design a framework to set students off on various learning pathways, through which they’ll further hone their skills. You can give these pathways fun names, and to further incentive learning, gamify skill-attainment and reward students for their progress!
For example, you could host a career fair that opens one hour early for students who’ve attended at least 12 leadership-focused events in the past year. Or, you could hold a VIP meet-and-greet with a guest speaker — but only for students who’ve earned at least 300 “social responsibility points.”
Sound fun? I hope so. But first, you need to recognize specific skills. Because if you — a trusty student affairs professional — doesn’t understand how your students are developing, students likely won’t either.
Here are some skills you may not have considered helping students gain, articulate, and quantify. (You can even tie these into NACE’s key career-readiness competencies!)
5. Setting boundaries
6. Personal branding
7. Motivating others
8. Group facilitation
11. Trusting teammates
13. Setting missions
15. Assessing others’ needs
18. Appreciating others
20. Acknowledging mistakes
22. Living by example
23. Ability to teach
24. Sharing a vision
25. Conducting meetings
Assessment and Evaluation
27. Data analysis
29. Developing new processes
33. Identifying patterns
34. Recognition of data bias
35. Understanding of opportunity cost
37. Appropriately challenging processes
39. Developing rapport
42. Accepting feedback
43. Giving feedback
44. Voicing opinions
45. Conflict management
48. Respecting others
50. Giving praise, affirmation, and rewards
51. Appreciating differences
52. Understanding what others need
53. Desire to connect
54. Seeing others’ potential
55. Managing up
57. Acceptance of facts
59. Turning obstacles into opportunities
63. Financial responsibility
64. Defining expectations
65. Prioritizing tasks
66. Time management
67. Thinking ahead
69. Risk management
74. Program design
75. Understanding mission and purpose
82. Awareness of knowledge gaps
84. Research techniques
86. Understanding technology
87. Asking for help
90. Healthy skepticism
93. Looking for connections
94. Concept application
95. Appreciation of theory
96. Articulation of knowledge
100. Civic virtue
101. Cultural awareness
102. World perspective
104. Promoting inclusion
105. Understanding privilege
107. A sense of worldwide connection
108. Community engagement
109. Diverse relationship-building
113. Intentional learning
116. Understanding of strengths and opportunities for growth
118. Ablility to ignore peer pressure
121. Comfort with alone time
122. Acceptance of past occurrences
123. Stress management
127. Emotional connection and management
129. Mentorship seeking
131. Managing energy
135. Reading non-verbal cues
136. Active listening
138. Language choice
139. Promptness in responding
140. Public speaking
141. Reducing ambiguity
142. Explaining dificult concepts
146. Organizing ideas
149. Telephone etiquette
152. Graphic design
As your students work on attaining new skills, they’ll grow in noticeably rewarding ways. They’ll become better leaders, more responsible citizens, and more attractive job candidates.
Surely students want to become all these things, but they need tour guides to help them. That’s where you come in! I hope these skills will give you inspiration for the best destinations and pit stops to direct students toward.
What skills have you helped students develop? Did we miss anything obvious? Let us know @themoderncampus.
And we’d love to help you design learning frameworks and gamify skills attainment! Head here to request a personal chat.