Heather Wolpert-Gawron

The Top 5 Skills Students Need For Their Future: The Results Are In!

By on April 29, 2011

Thank you to everyone who responded to my survey calling for the Top 5 Skills students need for their future. The list to choose from initially came from one included in my book, ‘Tween Crayons and Curfews: Tips for Middle School Teachers. Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t more that I would like to see on the list, but my point was to examine what the Elementary and Secondary Education Act has to say as it relates to its goal of College and Career Readiness.

So, I initially asked myself, what does that mean exactly to those in higher education and business? The following list of 13 skills (an excerpt from my book) is based on the responses of leaders in both colleges and businesses when asked what skills K-12 education should be providing for the students of tomorrow.

1. Collaboration – learn how to work in groups. It’s a given in the business world and has become a given in our global community.

2. Communication – learn how to talk to anybody at a party. Learn how to speak with respect to both the waitress and the owner of the restaurant. Learn how to talk to your boss and your co-workers. Learn how to write an email, leave a voicemail, and even shake a hand. Learn to read the communication of gestures and expressions, and understand what your gestures and expressions send out as well.

3. Problem-Solving – learn how to research answers and solutions. Learn where to go and how to get there.

4. Decision-making – learn how to be definitive.

5. Understanding Bias – learn how to recognize agendas.

6. Leadership – learn how to be a leader, not a ruler.

7. Questioning – learn to be skeptical appropriately (see above section), to question with clarity, and to inquire calmly. Learn to question as a means to guide others to an answer, and learn how to use questioning as a means to make your own knowledge deeper.

8. Independent Learning – Learn to Find Answers Yourself

9. Compromise – Learn to find contentment even while giving something up. Learn to find contentment with finding a middle ground.

10. Summarizing – Learn to get to the point.

11. Sharing the Air – Learn to shut up. Learn to that you can learn from others.

12. Persuasion – learn use the art of persuasion both in the written and spoken word.

13. Goal Setting – learn to define your quarry and hunt it down. Learn to identify and visualize where you want to get to and the path that can get you there.

So this past weekend, I asked colleagues and friends and followers and readers to answer a survey to help me whittle the list down to the top 5.

And the winners are:

Independent Learning

The next question is, are teachers at least using these 5 in their everyday lesson planning? And if so, how? The key is to use these skills to promote content in lesson planning, note taking, and assessments.

Over the next few weeks I’ll share some lessons that you can do to address these skills and for you to mull over for Someday or use on Monday. Hope you’ll share some of your lessons with me and my readers in this thread as well. After all, collaboration is a key future skill and one that must be modeled by the teachers in the room.

Take care and thanks for participating!

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Posted in: Educational Policy


  1. Annie Hinson
    May 3, 2011

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    What about accepting personal responsibility for their actions and inactions.

    • Cid Vargo
      May 3, 2011

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      Amen! Oops! Is that praying?

    • jen
      May 3, 2011

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      Accepting personal responsibility is a discussion I have with my students EVERY day. You are right, it should be on the list! Of course, I know plenty of adults who need to learn this as well.

    • Rob Frescoln
      May 4, 2011

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      I agree: however these are essential parts of being an effective problem solver, questioner and independent learner. As Cid and Jen added, these should be incorporated into all aspects of what we teach.

  2. SuccessTracker
    May 3, 2011

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    Could you please tell us what is the number of persons who generated these five top skills? and if possible, more information about the sample demographics.

    • Paula J.
      May 3, 2011

      Leave a Reply

      Perhaps if you buy her book you can find out… 🙂

      • SuccessTracker
        May 9, 2011

        Leave a Reply

        Thank you for the advice, but my question is about the top five skills. I agree about the importance of all of them, but I also care about the source of this ranking to support the statement. Again, Thank you for the advice.

  3. Clara
    May 3, 2011

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    Sounds like Destination ImagiNation to me!

  4. Teresa Sword
    May 4, 2011

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    I greet my students at the door every day and make them shake hands and greet me, some of them still have problems with giving a correct greeting and school is almost out. I tell my students it is a chance for them to get a first hand impression how I am feeling and I can get an impression of how they are feeling. It also gives you a chance to personally connect with them. It is proper communication skills. If a student refuses to greet me they go to the end of the line to try it again, and if they still refuse they go talk to the principal.

    • Susanne
      August 9, 2011

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      Good idea! I am teaching Jr High fro the first time in my 28 year teaching career. Thanks for the idea.

  5. Assistant Village Idiot
    May 4, 2011

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    I essentially agree with the list and the distillation. The addition of taking responsibility in the comments leads us to a deeper issue that seems unaddressed. Showing up and doing work seem to be assumed in this essay, with the only decision being what work they shall do. I think the actual production of work, rather than being distracted into social endeavors and resenting the teacher’s/school’s/parent’s interruption of them, and the application of effort, are more to the point for many students. I used to kid for one of my children, Back-to-Basics wasn’t the 3R’s, it was Showing Up; Passing In Assignments.

    Come to think of it, this may not be a list of what should be taught. This may be a list of how we currently describe what bright, socially skilled, motivated students do already, and the businesses and colleges are telling us no more than “Hey, we’d like to have bright, motivated, socially skilled students. Make me some of those.” How much of this is taking credit/blame for what the student already has on disc?

  6. Kim
    May 8, 2011

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    Heather – I have been following you on Edutopia and your blog for some time now since I have contemplated moving up to middle school. Next year I’ll be teaching 8th grade Spanish, so as soon as I found out I immediately bought your new book on Amazon. Can’t wait to read it.
    I love your list of skills for students and I’m already thinking about how to incorporate those skills into my lessons. Thanks for sharing!
    By the way, I received a pink slip every year for five years and I always was rehired so hang in there!

    • Heather Wolpert-Gawron
      May 8, 2011

      Leave a Reply

      Pleasure to hear from you. Enjoy the book and let me know how you incorporate those skills. I’d love to learn from you too!

      aka Tweenteacher

  7. Jennifer Lockett
    May 25, 2011

    Leave a Reply

    Great list!! Thanks for sharing. A few of these I actively implement, a couple more I could incorporate and hadn’t considered.

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