Teaching & Assessing Soft Skills

The career landscape is changing dramatically. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the average worker currently holds ten different jobs before the age of forty. This requires a high degree of flexibility and adaptability.

Students who leave high school with strong soft skills will work more harmoniously with others and be more successful tackling unfamiliar tasks. However, teachers must explicitly teach these soft skills in school. Teachers cannot assume that students know what it looks like to communicate effectively. Many students have never been taught specific strategies for managing their time. These are skills they must develop and hone in school.

This year I am focusing on both teaching and assessing these critical soft skills. I identified key soft skills I wanted to focus on, including the ability to manage one’s time, communicate, collaborate, solve problems, and think creatively. Then I created rubrics so students would know exactly what these soft skills look like in practice.

Now my teacher team uses these rubrics to give each student feedback on where he/she is in relation to mastering these crucial skills. Because we are a project-based program, these soft skills are often as necessary to their success working on large scale projects as their academic skills.

Below are a few of the rubrics I designed. Teachers are welcome to click on the pictures and make copies of these rubrics to modify and use with their own students!


If you have strategies or resources you use to support students in developing their soft skills, please post a comment and share them!

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42 Responses to Teaching & Assessing Soft Skills

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  3. Ikram says:

    Very useful rubrics. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Patricia Camacho says:

    Hi Caitlin. How do I get s hold of your work? It
    Might be something I could use with my students.

    • Hi Patricia,

      Are you asking about the books I’ve written? If so, you can search my name on Amazon and they are all sold there. If you are looking for something else, let me know!


  5. Hi Caitlin,
    Thanks for sharing your rubrics, so detailed!

  6. Marianne Farrugia says:

    Thanks Catlin,
    I agree these skills are important and are not just gained by osmosis! I wonder what further impact the rubrics would have if they focused on what students do demonstrate instead of what they don’t (in some instances) making them more of a continuum and thus recognising the progressive nature of learning and coming from a positive presupposition.

  7. Debbie Jarrett says:

    Very helpful – thank you for sharing !!

  8. Cindi Hodgdon says:

    I find collaboration in a team a tricky one to assess in terms of leadership – that tends to be something we look for and value, yet if everyone tried to lead a group, it would break down quickly. Sometimes the “worker bees” are underrated, but I try to praise those who could lead, but also know when it is time to just do the work and follow directions. I think you get at that with “multiple roles”, but sometimes their only role THAT day is worker or leader. That is why it is important to regularly assess collaboration (and even have students self assess!) Thanks for sharing your excellent rubrics!

  9. Dr Richard Blackburn says:

    Very useful indeed. I’ve spent my career in higher education, and I feel that this is applicable to students studying for degree level qualifications. For quite some time, I have used ‘soft skill’ development exercises in my own teaching as an add-on to the more technical, subject-specific aspects of learning programmes, and it has generally been well received by students. From my perspective, I think soft skills are key to effective learning, and I applaud the approach used here.

  10. Kristin says:

    Wonderful! Thank you!

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  12. Kathy says:

    Hi Catlin from Perth, Australia. Thank you for sharing these thoughtful and detailed rubrics. Our students work online in a shared platform, so we are particularly interested in your rubric on Online Communication. This is a terrific resource that will prompt a lot of discussion from both educators and students!

  13. Terra Graves says:

    Hi Catlin,
    I’ve followed your work for years. Thanks for these great rubrics. Our department uses something similar based on the Microsoft ITL 21CLD Rubrics. (See our website below.) We use this with teachers on their lesson design. Keep doing your good stuff!

  14. Aisling Sammon says:

    Could I get these rubrics emailed

  15. Sapna yadav says:

    Thanks for sharing Catlin. Very helpful

  16. Juliette Barber says:

    Thank you for sharing these. Particularly interested in your approach to building skills, if you’re ever looking for a connection in N Ireland, let me know!

    Juliette, Derry, NI

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  18. Michelle Montoya says:

    Hello, I am looking for a curriculum for soft skills…any recommendations? Thank you so much,

    • I don’t have a recommendation, Michelle. I’ve created everything I use, but maybe someone else will have a recommendation for you.


      • Marcy Rossi says:

        First of all, I think you’re wonderful Catlin! My husband teaches in Lodi and I’m so jealous whenever he gets to participate in one of your PD sessions! Michelle-I just came across these rubrics because someone posted the link in the comments of the breakoutedu.com fb page. A lot of these skills are addressed in breakouts (both physical and digital breakouts). I love doing the breakouts with students and think the range of skills they require so useful – a lot of these soft skills. Check it out! Oh, yeah-all the digital breakout games games are free!

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  20. Brian says:

    Hi Caitlin,
    I follow your blog and have gotten a lot of great ideas to use in the classroom – or that have challenged my current thinking. I don’t think anyone can argue that it is extremely beneficial for students to develop critical thinking – not to mention the ability to collaborate and communicate effectively. However, I have to disagree with you on the approach to explicitly teach these “soft skills” independent of content knowledge. I believe these skills should be embedded in a strong curriculum based on content. In my 16 years of experience in the classroom, I have come to realize that quite simply, students don’t know stuff. Now, I realize this statement is quite generalized – however, year after year, more of my students come to me in 8th grade lacking background knowledge that would otherwise allow them to think critically. Especially in the age of Google, students feel they don’t need to know things – and the focus on “soft skills” is, in my opinion – making kids less and less knowledgeable about the world around them. So, I think teaching the skills independently will not produce an informed citizenry, in fact, many cognitive scientists wpould argue you can’t teach these skills.

    • Hi Brian,
      I appreciate your perspective. I don’t think soft skills should be taught or cultivated in isolation removed from curriculum or grade level skills. My concern is that there is not enough focus on developing soft skills. My goal is to explicitly teach but it is almost always in the context of our curriculum. When they practice communication skills it is in discussions about the literature we are reading or the presentation of a project to a panel. Same with the ability to collaborate. Those skills are practiced and honed in their work as a team member in a design thinking challenge or project. I did not mean to suggest they are taught without any link to the curriculum. I feel that the development of these critical soft skills enhance their ability to succeed academically when it comes to understanding curriculum and mastering academic skills.


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  22. Dorthy Switalski says:

    Hi Catlin,
    Check out this e-learning Soft Skills program(link below). I teach high school business in Michigan. My students go through one of these a week on “Employability Wednesday”. They then do a self analysis blog post in their e-portfolio. Students actually really like these. Good stuff. It’s also “Dress for Success” day where they wear interview appropriate attire(optional). Since athletes dress up on game days….why not have business students have a “game day”? It brings attention to my program and the kids have a reason to dress up. Check it out.

  23. Carolyn says:

    Hi Catlin,

    What do you provide students in terms of dos and don’ts of online etiquette instruction? Thank you!

    • Hi Carolyn,

      I’ve got a formal “Dos and Don’ts for Online Communication” that is in my first book Blended Learning in Grades 4-12. That book focuses on creating a safe space online, establishing clear expectations for communication and engagement, building a strong online community to complement class time, teaching students to say something substantial online, designing dynamic online discussion questions, then weaving that work back into the classroom. That might be a useful resource as you embark on online work with students.

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  26. I love what you have written about soft skills; it’s exactly what I speak of with the kids I work with. I have recently obtained a workbased learning endorsement, and am working to get students placed in work situations.

  27. Chalita says:

    Hello Catlin,

    Thank you for your sharing. I’m about to check my students’ 4C skill after some mathematical practice. Your rubrics are really useful for this matter.
    As you said you also focus on Creativity skill, can I please have the rubric for that.
    Alternatively, how can I get the full version rubrics that you designed?
    Thank you : )

  28. Randy M says:


    These are great. Thanks for sharing. These will be helpful for me, as I’m teaching a course for high school students with disabilities this summer using Zoom.

    –Randy Mahoney Jr.

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