The Office of Faculty Development

Connecting Professional Skills to Learning Activities

According to the AAC&U, over 80% of employers value skills such as oral and written communication, ethical judgment and decision making, the ability to work in teams, critical and analytical reasoning, creativity, and the ability to apply learning to real-world settings. You are likely already assigning work that helps students build one or more of these skills, but this guide will give you more information and help you add emphasis on connecting professional skills to learning activities in your curriculum. 

Five competencies—(1) communication, (2) teamwork, (3) sales and customer service, (4) leadership, and (5) problem-solving and complex thinking—are in high demand across all major occupational groups (which include employees across professional, technical, support, and service roles). Whatever their planned career pathways, students will likely need these competencies on the job, so a curriculum that allows all students to hone their knowledge, skills, and abilities in these areas is sure to be of benefit, whatever their major field of study. Assignments can be designed to give students tools for success in their present and future careers.


    Flateby, T. L., & Rose, T. A. (2021, July 16). From college to career success: How educators and employers talk about skills. American Association of Colleges and Universities. in new window)

    Finley, A. (2021). How College Contributes" to" Workforce Success: Employer Views on What Matters Most. Association of American Colleges and Universities

    How college curriculum can speak the labor market’s language 4 ways educators can use skills to engage more learners, employers. Inside Higher Ed. in new window)

    Warrner, J. (2021). Integrating Soft Skills into an Academic Curriculum. Ball State University. (PDF)

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    Giordano, A. N., & Styers-Barnett, D. (2022). Training Tomorrow’s Scientists: Embedding Professional Skills in the Physical Chemistry Curriculum with a Guided Grant and Laboratory Project. Journal of Chemical Education99(6), 2417–2424. in new window)


    Scenario Based Writing or Activities 

    Assignments and projects can involve scenario-based writing or activities where students are given specific real-world career focused scenarios and asked to respond. These scenarios promote experiential learning and facilitate connections with the professional field, as well as give students an opportunity to practice and revise their responses. Some examples of this include emotional intelligence scenarios, difficult conversations with colleagues, and research-based inquiries they might receive in their careers.

    Campus Resources

    It’s easy to connect students with resources outside of class, and one amazing resource that adds connections to the professional field is the Chico State Career Center. The Career Center holds Career Fairs each semester, and if possible, instructors can cancel class to allow students to attend the event. Some students are seriously looking for opportunities to connect with employers, and some go to experience the event and plan for future attendance. They get an opportunity to see the value in events outside of the classroom and practice the skills we have been covering in class! These employers love Chico State students and grads, and this will be time well spent. 

    Authentic Assessment

    Whenever possible, make your assignments/quizzes/projects authentic for the students. Authentic assessment can show itself as having students respond to or reflect on a real-life career situation as an assignment (example: writing a Cover Letter). This makes learning not only more powerful, but purposeful and useful for their immediate lives and future careers.

    Clear Goals

    When our students have specific goals outlined, those goals are easier to achieve. Ask students not only to share their goals for the course/future/career field, but a specific plan of achievement in a series of questions.

    For each goal, have students respond to the following:

    1. What is the goal you have set for this class/future/career field?
    2. What are the benefits of achieving that goal?
    3. What is your step-by-step plan to achieve this goal?
    4. What are the likely obstacles that may prevent you from achieving this goal?
    5. What is your specific plan for avoiding/overcoming those obstacles?