|From the ERIC database
Assessment of Abilities. ERIC Digest.
This digest recommends assessing all of a person's abilities, not just some. It also discusses self-report in the context of ability assessment. The term aptitude often is used also in defining ability, and sometimes these terms are used interchangeably. Ability as used here follows Anastasi's (1988) concept of "developed abilities." Her viewpoint is that "all ability tests - whether they be designed as general intelligence tests, multiple aptitude batteries, special aptitude tests, or achievement tests - measure the level of development attained by the individual in one or more abilities" (p.413).
WHAT ARE THE MAJOR ABILITIES?
Technical ability is a broader term that integrates many mechanical abilities. Retitling this ability acknowledges past research that shows a clear gender differentiation for mechanical ability. Schools and society should address such biases for certain abilities.
Scientific ability, a hybrid involving conceptualizing, memory, and perhaps interest in the area, requires early identification because of the hierarchical way the ability is nurtured and developed within our educational system. Developing scientific ability after little exposure is more difficult for people in their late teens and early adulthood than at a chronologically earlier age. The critical dimension is a person's exposure and identification with the unique subset of skills as being doable for him or her. Self-efficacy beliefs or feelings of adequacy, both of which can be part of the ability construct, need examination.
Readers will find the above abilities in the literature but with different names. In a summary of 25 years of research, Prediger (1992) reported the same major skills, except that he identified literary rather than the musical/dramatic ability listed above. Lowman (1991) included in his literature review 11 of the above abilities as having career relevance. He did not list four of the abilities as major abilities--scientific, reading, social, and persuasive. Instead he cited intelligence as more predictive for science occupations. He wrote, "Interpersonal skills or social intelligence appears not to be a unidimensional construct" (p. 109). He set forth a taxonomy of social demands, however, that clearly differentiates interpersonal from helping skills, which require the ability to understand the behavior and feelings of others. Lowman expressed that personal factors are most important in predicting sales performance. So science, social, and persuasive domains were recognized but were not attributed as primary abilities. Reading and language were cited among the small number of factors found in the verbal factor.
Common existing tests measure six to eight of the abilities listed in the first column, above. This narrow band of abilities emerged from the multi-aptitude measures, mostly developed in the late 1940's. Job analysts, on the other hand, identify many of the aptitudes listed in the second column as necessary abilities for some jobs. Unfortunately, young people are evaluated on these abilities and educators seldom identify them for self exploration.
It should be mentioned that knowledge of an individual's ability profile may be of moot value. Hunter (1986), after reviewing hundreds of studies, wrote "...cognitive ability predicts job performance in all jobs...including the so-called 'manual' jobs as well as 'mental' jobs" (p. 340). He continued, "Cognitive ability predicts job performance in large part because it predicts learning and job mastery. Ability is highly correlated with job knowledge and job knowledge is highly correlated with job performance" (p. 354).
IF THEY ARE IMPORTANT, WHY HAVEN'T TESTS OF
WHAT IS SELF-REPORT METHODOLOGY AND HOW DOES
Self-report assessment is cheaper and less time intrusive on a school's schedule. How do the approaches compare regarding validity? Ghiselli's (1973) summary of the average validity coefficients of different kinds of aptitude tests used to predict proficiency in the eight major occupational categories of the General Occupational Classification System shows that the coefficients are typically in the .20's and rarely go above the .30's. The average validity coefficient for prediction of proficiency on the job was .22. In a review of 55 self-evaluation of ability scales, Mabe and West (1982) reported a range of correlation coefficients from -.026 to .80, with a mean coefficient of .29 (depending on the meta-analytic method used).
More recently, Westbrook, Buck, Sanford, and Wynne (1994) demonstrated that it is possible to get acceptable reliability and validity coefficients for self ratings which approach the size of the validity coefficients reported for objective measures of ability. Their comparative measure was the Differential Aptitude Test (DAT). In another study based on the common criterion of self-reported abilities of employees, Harrington and Schafer (in press) compared the abilities required for jobs from Guide for Occupational Exploration (GOE) job analysis data with the General Aptitude Test Battery's (GATB) Occupational Aptitude Patterns (OAP). The GOE and OAP average percentages were compared in order to evaluate which was more consistent with workers' self expressions of their abilities. Across the 51 occupations studied, 49 of the GOE averages were larger versus one in which the OAP average was larger. It was concluded that the GOE analysis data are more congruent with worker-identified job abilities than the GATB analyses.
Ghiselli, E. E. (1973). The validity of aptitude tests in personnel selection. Personnel Psychology, 26, 461-477.
Goldman, L. (1972). Tests and counseling. The marriage that failed. Measurement and Evaluation in Guidance, 4, 213-220.
Harrington, T. F. & O'Shea, A. J. (1993). The Harrington-O'Shea career decision-making system, revised manual. Circle Pines, MN: American Guidance Service.
Harrington, T. F. & Schafer, W. D. (in press). A comparison of self- reported abilities and occupational ability patterns across occupations. Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development.
Hunter, J. E. (1986). Cognitive ability, cognitive aptitudes, job knowledge, and job performance. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 29, 340- 362.
Lowman, R. L. (1991). The clinical practice of career assessment: Interests, abilities and personality. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Mabe, P. A. III & West, S. G. (1982). Validity of self-evaluation of ability: A review and meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology, 67, 280- 296.
National Commission on Testing & Public Policy (1990). From gatekeeper to gateway. Chestnut Hill, MA: Boston College.
Prediger, D. (1992). Identifying and assigning abilities to ACT job clusters and Holland's occupational types. Paper presented at the convention of the American Association for Counseling and Development, Baltimore, MD.
Westbrook, B. W., Buck, R. W., Jr., Sanford, E., & Wynne, D. C. (1994). Career maturity in adolescence: Reliability and validity of self-ratings of abilities by gender and ethnicity. Journal of Career Assessment, 2, 125- 161.
Thomas F. Harrington is Program Director of the Counseling Psychology Program at Northeastern University, Boston, MA.
ERIC Digests are in the public domain and may be freely reproduced and disseminated. This publication was funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, Contract No. RR93002004. Opinions expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect the positions of the U.S. Department of Education, OERI, or ERIC/CASS
Title: Assessment of Abilities. ERIC Digest.
Descriptors: * Ability; Ability Identification; * Aptitude Tests; Elementary Secondary Education; Evaluation; * Evaluation Methods; Evaluation Problems; Psychological Evaluation; * Self Evaluation [Individuals]; Student Evaluation; Testing
Identifiers: ERIC Digests
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