Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Brass Tacks of Individual Development

Michele Martin on Friday tweeted a link to a Fast Company article that talks about an SAT test prep platform that helps aid student success while predicting how successful they will be. Michelle's comment that there could be interesting implications for adult learning and motivation is probably an understatement.

Michele had earlier written a blog post about how the very notion of a job is changing, and how people can generate multiple streams of income by thinking from an entrepreneurial perspective. She and many others are right: with the relative democratization of options for gathering knowledge and experience, so too must peoples' education and "job" prospects be diversified like a stock portfolio.

Speaking with respect to SAT test prep, the problem seems to be self-motivation and that all-important work factor. From the Fast Company article: "The problem...[is] that kids don't do the work because there's little immediate, incremental incentive, and it's piled on top of an already full load of classwork and activities..." One indicator of this, to my mind, is the proliferation of first year success programs in higher education. Many of them focus on educational basics I was required to have to enter college in the mid-1990s. Many people coming into community colleges and public universities, as well as for-profit institutions, come from a less fortunate educational background, but still seek higher education. However, many of them don't know how to cope with a model that essentially inundates them with choices while they lack the glue of motivation. What's left is a hybrid of a prescriptive learning model intertwined with the feel of completely open education.

Some will have the motivation to push through the early period to success. Others will lack that, and the risk is that they will feel forced to stop or put off their education. Testive, I think, hits on a workable model for motivation. Such methods were very helpful in my recent success in passing the PMP exam. The possibility of passing that test would have been remote for me if I did not have practice facilities that mimicked the real thing while providing immediate feedback and a focus on weak areas of knowledge. While Testive's platform focuses on SAT and ACT testing, I think their approach could be applied to all sorts of areas.

So how does a test success algorithm relate to career entrepreneurship at the individual level?

With the democratization of educational options, it's becoming easier for someone to steer their career in new and different directions, or to build on the current course, on a proverbial dime. Tools similar to what Testive offers can help people achieve goals more quickly by predicting success through the targeting of weak areas.

My overall perspective is that more and more tools are becoming available that will drive solutions to let people guide themselves through the entire education and career launch process. We may eventually reach the point where people onboard themselves into a company by testing and passing a particular standard for performance in a particular role. There are all sorts of positive and negative implications for this, once society has determined how best to resolve motivation problem. Society already seems to be distrustful of a future where advancement in anything depends on cold, quantitative analysis of everything. The positive side affords freedoms our forebears couldn't conceive of, though that may look like a precipice to some.

In all honesty I have some genuine trepidation about these developments as well. The future will be interesting one way or another.

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