SkillsAct4Vet and soft skills activation :
“Adaptability and context reading”


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The Skills Act4 Vet group project is pleased to announce that the e platform for soft skills activation is ready.

The skillsAct4Vet platform is designed as a teachers’ guide. Its main aim is to support teachers and help students activate five of the most important soft skills :

  1. Adaptability and context ‘reading’
  2. Self confidence
  3. Cultural awarness
  4. Followership
  5. Proactivity

 Platform Link

Soft skills have a strong impact on “HOW” things are done.

In this article we focus on the first skill: “Adaptability and context reading ”. How can we define it? Which difficulties can be overcome by activating it? How can we recognize if the students are activating it? Why is it so important? Which activities can teachers suggest to activate it? Let’s answer these questions

Short definition

Adaptability and context ‘reading’ are the ability to act properly in both new and known contexts, adapting to their specific characteristics and recognizing the values, beliefs, resources and limits of both environment and people. It is also the ability to recognize roles and expectations. In multicultural contexts, this capacity implies the linguistic-communicative adaptation to specific environment.

Difficulties to which this skill responds:

IQ and EQ — intelligence quotient and emotional intelligence — have been hallmarks of success in the past. A new success trait is what Natalie Fratto, Silicon Valley Bank vice president, calls AQ — the adaptability quotient. You can have intellect and emotional intelligence, but without the ability to adapt, you are “yesterday’s news”.

In his book “Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow,” historian and author Yuval Noah Harari predicted:  “Most of what people learn in school or in college will probably be irrelevant by the time they are 40 or 50. If they want to continue to have a job, and to understand the world, and be relevant to what is happening, people will have to reinvent themselves again and again, and faster and faster.” Adaptability is the go-to ability for the new age..

We should make students aware that adaptability is a skill they may have as a natural gift, but also something they can improve and work on. Tutors, mentors, teachers, should help them improve adaptability and put this skill into practice in any aspects of their working and private lives

Adaptability and context reading are particularly important when it comes to short terms work-experience abroad, when young students are required to adapt quickly to a new context. Understanding what is going on and reconsidering their behaviours and sometimes their believes is necessary to adapt themselves to the new scenario. The more adaptable the student is, the more the new climate, new timetable, new daily routine won’t affect him/her, and he/she will enjoy a more authentic and complete experience abroad. The ability to adapt and to interpret properly the new context will help the participants to benefit the most out from the experience. It will furthermore prevent to feel home sickness, that is often due to an insufficient ability to read the new context, more than to a proper discomfort.

Natalie Fratto explains adaptability in this TED talk :

Behavioral indicators

There are certain behavioral indicators in the sense of behavioral patterns, that can help mobility students understand if they are developing adaptability and context reading :

  • Feeling at ease even in new or unknown situations (feel comfortable in living in the new house, or to move around in the new city, for instance)
  • Knowing the culture and the communicative styles of the context, (e.g. correctly interpret if people speak loudly and fast or calmly, or focus on the body language)
  • Interact properly with their colleagues, bosses, or clients, understanding formal and informal hierarchical relationships  (e.g. considering differences between a meeting with clients or the board and a meeting with the staff, or a business lunch or a coffee break in the office).
  • Recognizing  others’ expectations, and adapt to them, considering the role or the moment (e.g. just arrived  vs long term intern, cohabitation rules in a students residence vs a private house).
  • Establishing relationships by considering how people move, or talk to each other, putting the focus on any adapting effort that others put in place in different contexts.
  • Adopting any adaptability skills following the development of the organization.

Why is this skill important for mobility students and which sub-skills are associated with it?

Among other situations, adaptability is the first skill required when traveling and having an experience abroad. When living in another country, we see that everything around us is different: new language, new culture, new rules. What allows us to be able to live a new experience in a different context is the “adaptability”, the skill that allows us to pick all these little “tools” we already have and use them in a slightly different way.

Adaptability has also some subskills directly linked to it:

  1. Dealing with uncertainty having the will—emotional tolerance, mental capability, spiritual guidance—to not only face uncertainty but smack it in the face and press on.
  2. Seeing opportunity where others see failure. A mistake, a failure, are usually  temporary, mainly for young people in their first working experience. Any failure at this step can and must be approached as an opportunity for success, rather that as a error with no way back.
  3. Resourcefulness rather than getting stuck on one solution to solve a problem. Adaptable people have a contingency plan in place when Plan A doesn’t work.
  4. Forward and long-term thinking
    Open to opportunity, adaptable people are always on the lookout for improvement; minor tweaks that will turn ordinary into extra-ordinary, because they’re not attached to the one-size-fits-all solution. They don’t care about the limelight because they know it’ll soon burn out. Rather than wasting effort on a temporary issue, they shift their focus to the next obstacle to get ahead of the game, so that when everybody else finally jumps on board, they’ve already moved on to the next challenge.
  5. Curiosity
    Without curiosity, there is no adaptability. Adaptable people learn—and keep learning. Curiosity enables growth; it pulls you along, as opposed to willpower, which pushes you forward. Willpower only lasts so long as you like being pushed. Does anybody like being pushed? Don’t think so.
  6. Understanding Change
    If you want to adapt to a change you must know what to adapt to and why it’s important. Communication and Understanding is at the heart of everything we do.
  7. Big Picture Thinking
    To better fit in a new context, it helps to see the entire forest rather than just a few trees. otherwise the whole process would lack the repertoire or context on which decisions to adapt are based.
  8. Open-mindedness
    If you’re not willing to listen to others’ points of view, then you’ll be limited in your thinking, which means you’ll also be limited in your adaptability. The more context you have, the more choices you have towards change.

In the following paragraph we present two activities to develop adapatability and context reading

Walking in others’ shoes

Estimated time: 1 hour (10 min. to present the activity, 30 complete te activity, 20 min. for the debriefing)

Guidelines : Split students into groups. Give each student the name of a “persona” (famous person, or representative of a certain profession, or tourist, etc.) of the hosting country. Let each student describe a typical day in the life of that “persona”. They can focus on details (how the persona gets up, has breakfast, uses transport, etc.). Ask students to note down the possible problems the “persona” faces during the day. Encourage students to find possible solutions to the problems the “persona” might encounter.

The activity is part of the toolkit “EntreLearn”. EntreLearn was written by Kornélia Lohyňová, teacher at Hotel Academy, Bratislava, and it was edited by European Schoolnet (Óscar Güell, Tomislava Recheva, Anusca Ferrari e Silvia Giacon) . It is an output of I-LINC project. The toolkit structure follows EntreComp framework developed by the Joint Research Centre.


Use the debriefing cube to reflect on the exercise:

The debriefing cube is published in play14 website (

Link al debriefing cube

How to use the debriefing cube:

Τhe goals of the debriefing cube are :

1) helping students understanding the goals of the exercise,

2) exploring the process:  the events that happened  during the exercise and the group dynamics, 3) exploring the communication inside the group : what they heard, thought and said,

4) exploring the emotions they felt during the process

5) exploring what they found inspirational or interesting.

The debriefing cube contains many questions each one organized with sub-questions, however, teachers do not have to use them all. First of all explore the different cards with questions and sub-questions and select the ones that are more meaningful to you. Teachers can also observe what is going on inside the groups and select cards according to what they see.

Then you can print and cut them to form cards that you can give to students. Next step is to organize the debriefing group. Groups will remain the same they were during the exercise. Give them the cards sorted in the order you decided and ask them to self-organize by taking turns to explore the cards. Remind students that they have to finish the debriefing in a certain time and plan extra time to share what they discovered. Next step is to invite them to take turns selecting a card and starting the conversation by asking the group the question at the top.  Encourage them to explore several cards within the timebox. Eventually bring everyone back together to share what they have discovered.


Materials needed

Guidelines and rules in play14 website here:

Estimated time needed

2 hours (20 min. for instructions, 60 min. for the game, 40 min. for debriefing)

Description and guidelines

Players form small groups of four-six players each. Each group sits separated from the others. They receive a modified deck of cards according to the instructions and a sheet of rules for playing a new card game called “Five Tricks.” They have a few minutes to study the rules and practice playing the game. Once everyone has the hang of it, the facilitator collects the rule sheets and at the same time imposes a strict command of “no verbal communication.” This means that players may gesture or draw pictures if they wish, but may neither speak (orally or by signing) nor write words. Clearly, communication, should it be needed, is going to be more difficult henceforth. Since the game is so simple and so short, this artificial barrier to communication forces the players, within the simulated setting, to be as creative and alert as possible. Frequently at this point there is a little nervous laughter, some stifled last words, and finally a settling in to playing “Five Tricks” without the written rules and in silence. The facilitator then announces a tournament. As in any tournament, some players leave their home table and move to another, some from that other table have moved to yet another, and so on. They sit down at their new table, look around, and begin at once playing “Five Tricks.” Shortly thereafter an almost imperceptible change is felt in the room, then expressions of uncertainty. . . murmurs of frustration. .. chuckles… fists banging on tables. The tournament, with more movement to other tables, continues for another ten minutes or so amidst growing uncertainty, frustration, laughter, banging on tables. Sometimes someone is all ready to claim a “trick” when someone else reaches out and takes it. Sometimes someone makes an effort to draw a picture clarifying an uncertainty. Sometimes whoever was at the table first prevails, sometimes the more aggressive.

Debriefing : When, during the debriefing, the facilitator probes for what might have been going on, someone takes another player to task for not learning the rules correctly. Someone else confesses that she never was very good at cards. Someone else speaks about others trying to cheat. And several suggest that each table originally had been given a different set of rules. Some are sure of this; others think it might be true; others hadn’t considered it. In fact, at the beginning of the game each group had received a slightly different version of a basic set of rules to “Five Tricks.” In one set, for example, Ace is high; in another, Ace low. In one set diamonds are trump, in another spades, in another there is no trump at all. Variations on these few differences are the only differences, no matter how many groups are playing. This means that virtually everything except one or two aspects is the same for everyone. Here is the beauty of BARNGA–everything appears to be the same, and in fact almost everything is the same, yet great confusion, uncertainty, misunderstanding and misjudgments fill the room because of just a few differences. Even those who understand that the rules are different (and many do) are not necessarily clear about how they are different. And even those who understand how they are different have difficulty bridging the communication barriers to work out a solution. These concepts spark the energy generated by the game and provide the starting point for a group follow-up discussion rich in observations of how what happened can be seen as metaphors for what happens in real life.


What happened during the game/tournament?

What are the ways 4-H is like playing Barnga?

What does the game suggest about what to do when you are in a similar situation in the real world?

How does this game focus our attention on the hidden aspects of culture?