Verbal Fluency – Not GPA – A Predictor of Success

I mentioned previously that being popular in high school was a predictor of success later in life.

Over the last few years, I have come to believe that teachers should focus on helping students develop quality people skills, because these skills actually lead to measurable success later in life. While I am not downplaying the importance of academics, recent emphasis has shifted toward standardized testing, academic standards across the board, and less time on other things in the classroom. In other words, educational bureaucrats are trying to squeeze out time to teach and model the things that actually matter!

Despite this recent emphasis on bureaucratic academic standards, research carried out by Thomas Harrell of Stanford found that the GPA of MBAs (as mentioned in Never Eat Alone) had no bearing on success. I understand this may not apply to high school or even other college degrees, but I think it does remind us that GPA as a number is so arbitrary that it means little.

So what did predict success in the study?

Verbal Fluency.

Those who could use language successfully with others. This means they had the ability to converse with other freely and effectively.

There are two lessons here. As teachers, we are more successful the more verbally fluent we are (and this is something we can develop), and we need to model this for our students.

In fact, when I think back to what I learned from teachers, I typically can’t remember details about equations, body parts, or sentence diagramming. I am sure I learned these things. However, what sticks out are the people skills I learned, about how to be funny, how to handle a situation with grace, and how to ignore things that don’t really matter. When I tell stories from school, I almost always relate stories related to teachers’ personalities versus the material they covered.

Fortunately I was born with good people skills, but honing them lately has been paying off like crazy. It will pay off for you as a teacher and help your students if you can model good people skills and verbal fluency.

About David Bennett

David Bennett is a teacher, author, and speaker. His articles receive over a million hits per year and have appeared in a variety of publications. He is co-owner of a communication company, and he also writes for The Popular Teen and other sites. Follow him on LinkedIn or Twitter.