Assistant teacher course/Soft skills

Soft skills Edit

Activity: lecture, group work
Group size: unlimited
Preparation: acting
Instructors: 1
Duration: ?

Teamwork Edit

The skills required to work in a team are an important area of soft skills.
Teamwork can be described by communication and cooperation skills:

  • Communication: listening, questioning, persuading, negotiating
  • Cooperation: respecting, helping, sharing, participating

Describe some teamwork scenarios.

  • What communication skills are required for the scenarios you described?
  • What cooperation skills are required for the scenarios you described?
  • What other skills are required?

It may be interesting to discuss why respecting is listed as a skill and not as an attitude. An attitude is more passive but a skill is something active. One can have a respectful attitude but to respect the position of other members in a team one may have to actively analyze the perspective of the other person. Actively understanding and respecting other positions is the skill that is meant here. The foundation for this skill is metacognition.

Taking the view of another person can be trained by defending the opposition's views in a dispute. Groups of pupils can try to find opposing views where two candidates are willing to argue for opposing sides. The disputants should prepare their arguments in order to be able to exchange their views at a sign and continue a discussion arguing for the other side.

The learning effect here is to understand both sides of the dispute thoroughly, as if they were your own view. Another learning effect, actually abandoning your own position for a while, is not very distinct because the participants are not likely to defend a position they really see as important in this dispute.

Admitting mistakes Edit

An assistant teacher should have no problems to admit mistakes or to acknowledge his own lack of knowledge or understanding. Admitting mistakes is connected to several personal qualities that are characterized as soft skills:

  • Responsibility: It may be important for pupils to understand a mistake.
  • Self-esteem: It can be a sign of low self-esteem to require covering mistakes or lack of kowledge.
  • Sociability: It is better social interaction to be open about the quality of knowledge.
  • Integrity: It is a sign of integrity to reveal shaky arguments instead of hoping to be right.


ToDo: Handout for the instructor:
chaotic argumentation.

To visualize the problem an instructor could hold a short lecture that ended in increasingly chaotic argumentation to defend logical mistakes in the lecture. The instructor should explain that his presentation was an appeal to ridicule but the conclusion the pupils were meant to draw was still correct.

Questioning your own ideas Edit

Willingness to question your own ideas is required for teamwork and may be a precondition to be able to admit a mistake. In order to be able to question his own ideas somebody must be able to reflect on his own thinking, so this section revisits the topic of metacognition.

Assistant teachers should encourage each other to question their respective ideas but they should also encourage pupils to do so.
What phrases are useful as a positive motivation to question an idea?

  • "Are you sure?"
  • "You might want to reconsider that."
  • "Do you know that or are you just guessing?"
  • "How did you arrive at that assessment?"

Find some more phrases and discuss the impression they make.

The request to consider an idea can be

slightly annoying
"Are you sure?" can be annoying and prompt a stereotypical expression.
"You might want to reconsider that." can easily appear condescending: I know your mistake and you need to think. A friendly tone may seem important to avoid the problem.
insecure / disinterested
"Do you know that or are you just guessing?" doesn't request information and can give the impression that the inquirer is insecure and not interested in the details of the reasoning that led to an assessment.

"How did you arrive at that assessment?" may seem a good choice. The inquirer demands an explanation and can analyze the reasoning further. Clever questioning can make the other person reveal an illogical step in his own reasoning himself or make the other person answer his own question. (See also: socratic questioning)

Asking somebody to reconsider an idea is not the same as reminding yourself to reconsider your own ideas. How can the assistant teachers learn to remind themselves? (This is also related to self-management, which is a later topic.)


Mediation Edit

Mediation may occasionally be required, for instance when a definitive answer cannot be given because disputants lack knowledge of a topic or understanding for the topic.


See also Edit

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