Developing skills for the future

Developing soft skills for the future

Workplaces are changing. Massive shifts in technology and globalisation are transforming the way we work, play and socialise. The next generation will be working in an exciting future. How can schools help prepare students for success?

At CCGS, under our Next Generation Teaching and Learning Strategic Plan 2015-2020 we recognise the importance of developing student’s soft skills – the combination of people, social and communication skills as well as character traits. We want to help students navigate their environment, solve problems, work with others and perform well to achieve success.

We stepped into the Middle School to discover just how our English and Commerce students are developing these skills for the future.

From one student to a collaborative team of scriptwriters

Last term, Year 8 English students were given a scriptwriting task. But there was a catch. 

The script had to be written in collaboration with others and they would be assessed for how well they worked together. 

Three English classes joined together with teachers and a teaching aide on hand. Students who had never worked with each other before were given the opportunity to mix outside of their normal English group. 

Students attempt to balance a hula hoop as a team

Initial lessons were dedicated to thinking about how to collaborate, communicate, encourage and plan. Students were given various exercises for example, the helium stick. One hula hoop was given per group. The aim was to float the hoop up and down while students rested their fingers under the hoop trying to keep it balanced. It proved harder than it looked. 

Students could be heard saying, “Do it like this”, “Watch me”, “You’re wrong”, “No, no, no”. The students failed the task.

Focusing in on skills

Mrs Mandy Vickers, English teacher said, “It’s easy to make statements and judgements. Without even realising it some students became overpowering. Subconsciously they thought others had nothing to contribute. Some students became too timid to contribute or overwhelmed. That’s not how groups work.”

“We encouraged students to reflect on the exercise. Think about positive language, how to compromise and negotiate. It’s these skills of listening, communication and often compromise that help them realise actions can be more powerful when they work together.”

Teachers shared what they had heard and brainstormed with students’ better ways to communicate and encourage. Students soon realised that it worked much better when they talked to each other and respected points of views. On the second hula hoop attempt, all groups applied their new collaborative skills and were successful.

Working collaboratively to think about language used by their characters

These essential skills underpinned the assessment. Each lesson that followed started with a masterclass – a small workshop to help improve skills required to write an effective script together. They would then need to work together to ensure consistency across each scene, the characters and language and emotion used. At the end of each lesson, teams reflected on what worked well, what didn’t work well and what they could take into the next session.

The skills taught - communication, focus, compromise and reflection - as well as an awareness of the way they speak to each other and the words they use - helped deliver incredible results and some truly amazing pieces of collaborative writing. There was a significant improvement in student engagement, organisation and input throughout this task, and students reported positively on the process at an end of unit evaluation.

Enterprise in action

Each year the school is transformed into a busy marketplace for the Year 9 Market Day as CCGS takes part in one of the largest entrepreneurship programs in Australia, the $20 Boss program.

Last term Year 9 Commerce students were given a challenge: create a product or service to deliver to Years 3 and above. Market research helped students identify a target market. 

Year 9 Commerce students on Market Day

With great enthusiasm, students showed off their entrepreneurial skills. They began work, planning and organising the big day. Creative and brightly decorated stalls enticed some of the largest crowds to date offering consumers anything from shoe shining to lemonade, delicious cupcakes to traditional homemade spaghetti bolognese. 

Critical thinking to solve business problems

Ms Bernadette Henry, Commerce teacher said, “Students were given real money and had to form a real business so there were consequences for every action they took. The ability to think on their feet, anticipate potential problems, work through those with their peers and quickly respond was essential.” 

“Students get to practice divergent and convergent thinking and this makes a big difference to the success of their operation. Not to mention the financial literacy side. No one wants to make a loss!”

Happy customers from Year 9 Commerce Market Day

Learning through experience

Student Jodi Haseler described her product, “We sold brownies with cookie dough and oreo with an added extra of a milkshake on the side. They were fast and easy to make so we could serve lots of people really quickly. We didn’t want to keep customers waiting otherwise we would lose their business.”

Setting the sale price was a careful balancing act. Teammate Chelsea Vernon-Elliot added, “It was really challenging thinking about what price we should set our product at. We wanted to secure the best possible profit but we had to balance that with what people would actually be prepared to spend.”  

Overcoming last minute challenges

Students Bailey Green and Hugh Beresford teamed up for their chosen product, an ice-cream cookie, but the team came across some challenges.

“Our original idea was to make ice-cream cookies but the supermarket had run out, so we had to make a last minute decision and think fast. We did ice-cream cones with toppings instead,” said Bailey.

Hugh added, “I was the cashier and took the orders. Bailey would prepare the ice-cream. It was a really hot and humid so our ice-cream started to melt! Luckily we sold out really quickly. We hadn’t anticipated how popular our stall was going to be.”

Overall Year 9 Commerce students made a profit of $580. Collectively they made the decision to donate this to the Salvation Army Bushfire Relief.

Next Generation Learners are guided by real world interests, exploration, curiosity and experimentation. Discover more about learning in action across our entire school.