Academic journal article Career Planning and Adult Development Journal

ASSESSING APTITUDES and YOUSCIENCE: Enhancing Career Development for Learners of All Ages

Academic journal article Career Planning and Adult Development Journal

ASSESSING APTITUDES and YOUSCIENCE: Enhancing Career Development for Learners of All Ages

Article excerpt

Questioning the nature of human capacity has intrigued philosophers, scientists and physicians for centuries. As early as fourth century BCE, Greek physicians and philosophers postulated that the human brain was the basis of cognition. Today, it is widely accepted that the brain inspires our very existence-our general intelligence, motivation, emotions, performance, experiences, and knowledge are dependent on our cognitive functioning. And, the more we know about ourselves and our unique natural talents, the more we are able to add value to our life roles. How does one discover, and hence capitalize on, their unique gifts and talents? Assessments abound and are used with mounting confidence to encourage individual success and life design. Measuring individual differences via general intelligence assessments or standardized achievement tests, for decades the sine qua non of determining potential, is now only a portion of the testing and assessment done. Assessing individuals' aptitudes, interests and skills, and sharing their results enhances their likelihood of success. Consequently, as use of assessments grow, it is essential that career development specialists discern the efficacy of available tools.

Thinking about Aptitudes

Aptitude assessment has been missing from career development conversations in recent years despite the evidence that aptitude assessments are dependable predictors of career performance (Hunter & Hunter, 1984; Green & Macqueen, 2008). The premise of this paper is that aptitude assessments should be central to career planning for two primary reasons. First, there are significant differences in aptitude requirements across jobs (Ghiselli, 1966; Murphy, 1996). Thus, identifying careers for which the aptitudes required match a person's aptitudes is likely to increase the chances for long-term satisfaction and success on the job (Dawis, 1994; Dawis & Lofquist, 1984). Second, aptitude profiles generally remain stable over time (Bizot & Goldman, 1993; Dawis, Goldman, & Sung, 1992; Goldman, Bizot, & Rischall, 1994). Hence, an individual's apti- tude testing results can be used for career planning both now and in the future (Hunter, 1986; Hunter & Schmidt, 2004).

By presenting research on assessments in general and aptitudes specifically, this article builds support for the re-integration of aptitudes as an essential part of the holistic picture of self and talent development within the 21st century global, digital landscape. Beginning with a brief overview of the interrelations among cognitive attributes on which most tests are built, we next offer definitions of testing and assessment constructs, and touch on controversies surrounding standardized testing/assessments. Guidelines to help practitioners evaluate the quality of assessment instruments are given along with research findings on the predictive ability of various assessments, followed by a discussion of future research needs and suggestions for appropriate use of aptitude assessments by career counseling professionals. The article provides an overview of YouScience (www.youscience.com), a new online aptitude assessment that uses validated science and performance tests to find the intersection between natural aptitudes and interests, specifically focusing on helping learners to identify careers and post-secondary majors that hold greatest potential. A short case study is provided to illustrate a finding from one user's assessment.

Definitions of Test Constructs

There are several constructs (individual assets) measured by assessments that are used to identify an individual's potential to succeed in career and educational pursuits. For clarity, this article uses the following definitions. Although related, aptitudes, abilities, skills and interests are discrete constructs and should not be used interchangeably.

Aptitudes. Aptitudes are innate abilities, the result of inheritance and early development (Ryan Krane & Tirre, 2005). …

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