Trends in Personnel Assessment

What’s waiting around the corner in people diagnostics?

We can have one set of glimpses at the near future of tools and procedures when we look at the currently published results of a workshop on „new directions for assessing performance potential of individuals and groups“ for the US Army that has been held April 3-4, 2013 to examine the future of military entrance assessments.

What are focus areas of the experts who have been consulted during this meeting?

  • Contextualization in testing and item-development is key: „Sackett [Paul Sackett, a distinguished professor of psychology and liberal arts at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis] described the results of a meta-analysis that examined the effect of adding context to assessment items. In particular, the analysis compared standard personality assessment items with contextualized items – that is, items that had been modified by asking about behavior at work rather than behavior in general. (…) For conscientiousness, for example, the validity of the contextualized measure was 0.30 versus 0.22 for the standard measure. For emotional stability it was 0.17 versus 0.12, for extraversion it was 0.25 versus 0.08, and for openness it was 0.19 versus 0.02. The average validity for the contextualized measures was 0.24 versus 0.11 for the standard measures (Shaffer and Postlethwaite, 2012) (report p. 80-81).
  • Specification will be important: expect the „Big Five“, as we know them, to be drilled down into more focussed traits, such as extraversion becoming enthusiasm and assertiveness.
  • Real time fake-warnings in online-testing might be applied: Participants discussed the overall validiy-enhancing effect of warnings issued in real-time to participants engaging in e.g. extreme responding or exceeding social desirability thresholds.
  • „Serious gaming“ is a definite trend: „Many new types of assessment tasks are also being developed. Some of the most interesting assessments in this second category, von Davier [Alina von Davier, a research director at the Educational Testing Service (ETS)] said, use various complex tasks, such as simulations and collaborative tasks. People are working on using serious games as a context for the assessment and, eventually, as an unobtrusive way to test. And there is research on the iterative development of tasks, where the task itself is developed over time to match the test-taker’s ability.“ (report, p. 88).

Well, for anyone with an interest in personnel diagnostics research, some of the findings might be not that new, to be honest. Nonetheless, the report indicates that some topics, such as serious gaming, are definitely leaving the research lab behind!


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