Principles of Assessment

            It is extremely important to have several kinds of information about a potential student when assisting that person with making career education decisions. This information can be gathered by informal, documented conversation (interview) with the person or by administering formal assessment instruments (tests or surveys). Some of the most important things to remember about assessment are that it doesn't have to involve a lot of expensive instruments; it doesn't have to take an extremely long time; it doesn't have to be very complicated; and it should not be scary for the student. It is much easier to over-test than to under-test, so doing too much testing should be guarded against.

Three categories of information are the most important: 
1) academic achievement or functioning level in mathematics, reading comprehension, and written language skills;
2) aptitude for different kinds of skills such as large and small muscle coordination, spatial perception, eye-hand speed, clerical speed and accuracy, mechanical reasoning, and sometimes color vision; and
3) career interest areas.

Academic achievement must be measured with a formal test, but it is important to use an instrument that has been developed with the same kind of population as the individuals whom one is testing. Aptitude (or natural skill) can be measured with either a formal test or by observing the person doing the same kind of activity he or she would be doing in the occupation for which the candidate is being evaluated. Interest can be determined with a formal survey or by simply asking the person what kinds of work or activity he/she finds most interesting; what he/she likes best about that occupation; and what the person thinks he/she might not like about that work. It is also important to measure a person’s desire to do heavy or light work; to move around a lot or sit still most of the time; to work indoors or outdoors; and to complete either a little formal training or a great deal of education.  It is helpful, too, to know whether the person would rather work with a lot of people or a small group; or to deal mostly with information, with equipment, or with people. It is very important to use well-developed instruments for those areas in which formal testing is done. Reliability coefficients should be 80 or above, and the tests should be normed and validated against populations which are similar in age, education, and other factors to the persons being tested for vocational guidance purposes. It is also extremely important that the individuals administering the tests be trained in proper test administration techniques and that they always administer the evaluations according to those practices. Tests administered incorrectly do not generate results that are dependable or useful for counseling or program choice.

One of the most important factors is to be sure that the results are interpreted to the individual who took the tests so that he or she understands what the results mean in regard to decisions about training and education. Use simple language to explain what the test results mean, and give the individual a chance to say whether he or she thinks the test results are accurate and meaningful.

REMEMBER: Assessment results are a good way to help students make decisions, but they are only an indication of that person's performance on those instruments on the day the tests were administered. They are not magic numbers that help make automatic decisions.

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