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Leaders from LinkedIn and the World Economic Forum agree: students need soft-skills and social-emotional competencies to be effective leaders and team members in the 21st century. Prominent education publications are also discussing this, focusing on the need for teachers to understand social-emotional learning and brain science to better support their students in developing social skills that complement academics. Funders like the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative are embracing the whole child approach to learning, and there is growing interest in STEM — with its natural connection to curiosity, experimentation, and teamwork — as an integrated, content-forward way to foster growth mindset, grit, perseverance, and the soft skills most essential to 21st-century life.

Our Teacher Forum members have pointed out that the myth that STEM is only about hard skills is slowly waning, and partners are already taking early steps in this direction. The Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas at Austin is partnering with Agile Mind to lead a Project Team that aims to support students in adopting a growth mindset by addressing teachers’ implicit biases about who can and cannot excel in STEM. Colorado Education Initiative has championed the Student-Centered Accountability Program (S-CAP), a joint effort by small, rural Colorado school districts that considers the whole child to develop an approach to accountability that incorporates a wide range of indicators of district and school quality, focuses on the needs and interests of local communities, and is supported by a network of peers. With more partners contributing and more national attention, we predict that in 2019 we’ll see STEM increasingly being used to strengthen metacognitive and social-emotional skills so that more students can flourish in all aspects of their lives.

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