Performance Based Tasks
Carrying over from a previous post, along with the shift in team structure comes a shift in assessment. A performance based task is a different sort of evaluation from the traditional test, with a similar structure but a different method and outcome.
In any assessment, the goal is to test some knowledge or skill. Traditional written tests basically rate your ability to recall facts or data and be able to synthesize them into an answer to a question.
These tests also indirectly evaluate someone’s ability to regurgitate the exact answer someone is looking for.
Not only can you get the answer “wrong”, you can also get the answer “partially right”: the idea of part marks. This further suggests that the evaluation is based on the ability of the test-taker to think the exact same way as the test-giver, rather than an ability to solve a problem. It seems like there would be varying degrees of correctness only if there was a preconceived notion of what “correct” actually means. So in most cases, this sort of test measures one’s ability to conform to someone else’s notion of the best way of solving a problem.
Most of the tasks performed in the workplace every day are real world tests of workers’ ability to do what they are being paid to do. Tests in the traditional sense train the worker to adapt to predictable problems with prescribed solutions. The process becomes indoctrinated to a point of instinctive responses to problems being raised, which is where society seems to be right now. People are starting to realize that this method of problem solving is counter-intuitive to innovation, because rather than foster creative thinking, it undermines it.
The new type of test is a sort of mirror to that “real-world” test that exists in the work place. In the same way, employees are assessed on their ability to apply relevant knowledge and skills to solving a problem, but the method and outcome are very different. Instead of following a prescribed set of rules on how to solve the problem, a problem is presented that employs the relevant knowledge, and the assessment is based on the way the group solves the problem.
A slight variation maybe, but shift from doing things the right way to finding the right way to do things is a shift from scripted thought to creative problem solving. The assessment is also based on the ability of the group to work together, which is the relevant piece from the previous blog post. A performance based task is the perfect way to assess the new teams you created, because it creates the goal of solving a real problem using the skills they use every day, by working together with members from other departments.
The shift is in the way we problem solve, and the way we decide what information is relevant. In the “test”, “skill-based” problem solving structure, we boil things down to the bare-bones facts and try to manipulate them in such a way as to get the one right answer. In the “performance”, “goal-based” problem solving structure, the end result is looked at to find out what the relevant facts are. We can’t funnel information down to the bare minimum because we don’t know what’s relevant yet, so instead, we keep as many facts in play as possible.
This allows way more creative thinking, because it allows for associational thinking. Rather than pruning connections, the brain makes new ones, taking more and more winding paths through the relevant information until the solution reveals itself. This is when truly innovative thought happens. Following the same path every time you solve a problem means you get really good at solving that problem, and really bad at problem solving in general.
Your ability to adapt new, relevant information is what gives you the ability to find creative solutions to the same problems. The tests we are given don’t teach us how to think critically, they teach us how to conform to definitions of right/wrong. Even the structure of an organization is conducive to stale thinking.
With creativity and critical thinking skills being the huge assets in solving today’s complex problems, are we really doing anything to make sure these skills are developed?