Sneaky in a good way: The use of survey and assessment metadata in soft skills measurement

I often do not manage to divorce myself from my desk to venture out into the wider DC world of brown bags, workshops and conferences, but I recently attended a panel discussion at the APPAM research conference on “Measuring soft skills for evaluation and policy: Challenges and innovations.” My FOMO (fear of missing out) was higher than usual: I was generally familiar with and compelled by most of the panelists’ work in some shape or form; moreover, FHI 360’s Kristin Brady was serving as discussant for the panel.

All four panelists started from two common assumptions: 1) soft skills, AKA life skills or social-emotional skills, are important for work, health and life; and 2) they are notoriously difficult to measure. This gnarliness of soft skills measurement is something we’ve experienced firsthand through the USAID-funded YouthPower Action activity to develop a soft skills assessment tool for international youth development programs.

In this blog post, I first provide an overview of some approaches to soft skills measurement and then zoom in on one approach from the panel discussion that I find particularly promising.

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