STEM Students: Arts Improved Our Soft Skills

Dive Brief:

  • Six students recently spoke during the AWS Public Sector Summit in Washington, D.C., about how arts education and the soft skills it helped them develop are key to their success in the fields they’re pursuing in college, EdSurge reports.

  • One student, who studied network security at Bowie State University in Maryland, also acted in plays, which he said helped boost his ability to communicate with others.

  • Another noted that humanities courses, most importantly ethics, are key to those looking to enter tech fields so they can ground themselves in understanding how their inventions, research and discoveries will play a role in the world.

Dive Insight:

The push for more science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills in students led somewhat to arts education being downplayed in curriculum. Employers, however, have started speaking up, noting that soft skills, such as knowing how to communicate effectively, were missing in some applicants and just as necessary as technical knowledge.

Chief academic officers and administrators are often building curriculum from mandates put in place by state policymakers. But as EdSurge’s story noted, college students studying in tech fields have attributed their success to soft skills, as well, which educators agree are crucial. A 2018 Gallup survey found that 4,000 parents, teachers, principals and other education leaders believe soft skills are as important as academic abilities.

Educators, however, shouldn’t have to choose between emphasizing STEM learning at the expense of developing soft skills in students. Some groups, such as the nonprofit Project Lead the Way, which works with students as early a preschool and continues through high school, assess children on both the subject material they’re learning, as well as skills they’ll need when they leave school and enter the workforce.

STEM classes do teach social tools in many cases. Students have to be adept at project-based learning know how to work with others, collaborate, handle setbacks and share their knowledge when they succeed to support their peers. Ensuring all technical and soft skill bases are covered is possible, no matter the subject, though finding ties to the arts can ultimately help fill that need more efficiently.

By Lauren Barack

Published June 19, 2019