There is increasing recognition of the importance of social skills in the workplace. As employers seek socially competent workers, recent research highlights the role of social skills in professional success. From early in life, social interactions forge individual approaches to connecting with others and shape future social skills. This idea inspired FOS Affiliate Román Andrés Zárate, MineduLAB (an innovation laboratory for cost-effective education policy at the Ministry of Education of Peru), and the pedagogical team of this Ministry, to investigate: how do teenagers’ social interactions within schools contribute to improving their social skills for the future?
Zárate’s research took place in a government network of exam schools called Colegios de Alto Rendimiento (COAR). COAR schools in Peru are for students who excelled academically in middle school and are transitioning into high school. There is one COAR school in each region of the country. These are boarding schools where students stay in dormitories and spend three years honing their skills to get ready for university. Since students are away from their families during the school week, their schoolmates greatly influence how well they do socially and academically in these high-achieving schools, but how and to what extent? Or, as Román Andrés Zárate asked, how can school practices best support positive peer interaction for academic and social success?
“The project with Román involved an approach that illuminated social skills, how the new social networks emerge at COAR schools, and the development of students’ social skills might explain the uneven academic performance among students. His approach was novel because the Ministry of Education had not yet measured social skills, let alone explored the connection between social skills and students’ cognitive development. And it became the main question to be addressed by Román’s project.”
Vanessa Trujillo Lastra, Evaluation Specialist for Cost-Effective Innovations, MineduLAB.