Navigating Your Child's Education: Grades 6-8

3 min read

The Importance of Student Collaboration in Developing Soft Skills

Jun 6, 2019 1:40 PM

In a world of an increasingly competitive job market, the tendency for educators and parents is to place more and more emphasis on academic achievement in order to position our children and students for the best possible university opportunities and career choices. While academic ability and technical skills are essential, employers are beginning to shift focus in their hiring practices, placing greater value in interpersonal skills and the ability to collaborate. 

Two recently published studies show how a major American technology firm changed its mind about its hiring practices. Over the last couple of years, they transformed how they thought about the vital qualities that its employees ought to have. They shifted from believing that they needed the brightest STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) minds to recognizing more collaborative qualities such as “being a good coach; communicating and listening well; possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view); having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues; being a good critical thinker and problem solver; and being able to make connections across complex ideas.”

People who are in human resources have heard this over and over recently. Rather than placing an emphasis on technical skills, companies realize that a broader education that includes interpersonal relationships and “soft skills” are needed to accomplish things. (Steve Jobs once stated that the most valuable class he ever took was in calligraphy because it taught him to value aesthetics, which became a fundamental component of Apple’s appeal.)

The idea that collaboration is a vital part of learning should be no surprise to Christians. The institution that Jesus left us upon His ascension—the church—is the most awesome collaborative mover in the history of mankind. Each of those vital employee qualities that the study identifies are Christian virtues that are demonstrated in the New Testament and throughout the best of church history.

It's important for schools to encourage social and emotional development collaboration among its faculty and staff and among its students. At the elementary level, schools can implement programs such as "reading buddies," which involves older elementary students help emergent readers in lower grade levels develop reading skills. In middle school, collaboration might look like science and math students working in small groups to develop an innovative design project or complete a hands-on task together. And in high school, students can collaborate daily on lab work in chemistry and physics classes or in school leadership roles. Participation in any athletic teams, musical and dramatic performances do the same. These activities and more develop in students the ability to work with others to accomplish a goal or complete a task. These types of skills do not show up on standardized test scores, and yet they are vital components of a complete and Christian education. We are not called as disciples to be individuals saved for God’s glory, but a united church, a body of believers who work together to advance the kingdom’s work. Collaboration should be an essential component of Christian education as a way to deeply root in our children the unified essence of Christ's body, as well as practically prepare them for their future workplaces.

Troy McIntosh
Written by Troy McIntosh

Currently serving as Executive Director of the Ohio Christian Education Network, Troy has been in education for over 25 years as an elementary teacher, elementary/middle school principal, and as Head of School at Worthington Christian School. He and his wife Julie have three adult daughters. Troy loves spending time with students, especially when it is centered around asking and answering big questions. He is passionate about watching students grow and mature by learning new ideas and how they relate to their world.