Why and how tests should be used with caution, and in context.
This article by Liv Pennie was published in Education Today August 2022.
Liv challenges schools to consider the perils of promoting 'The Answer' when creative exploration and student agency are so crucial.
I rarely meet an adult who doesn’t have a funny story about the future career suggested to them during a career test in high school. Students regularly report their tests giving them the ‘wrong’ answer, thanks in part to limited options, or being suggested roles without any wider context.
‘You’re a… (drumroll)... nurse!’
For many, the test results are as anxiety-inducing and random as the Hogwarts Sorting Hat. We’ve seen students demand to re-sit their test as the results are ‘wrong’, and tune out of any follow-up conversations.
Despitethis, there are many schools that place a career test as the main event in their careers program. Box. Ticked. When there’s not much time in the curriculum for careers education, it’s easy for schools to see careers tests as a quick, simple, and cost-effective way to ‘do’ careers as efficiently as possible.
Tests based on interest matching should be used with caution
Sure, some tests are valid, reliable and even useful, particularly for those young people who are struggling to decide on the best next step in their learning and life. But many are flawed in design, coming up with ‘answers’ or career recommendations that are dangerously narrow or limited.
There’s also added pressure when parents view these tests as reliable, ‘scientific’ information about their child that will provide guidance and direction for their future. If their child isn’t given a role that they deem ‘at the right level’ for their child, there’s a real risk of dismissing or even discouraging their child’s career ambitions. Parent reaction to test results can have a serious impact on student wellbeing, and schools must be ready to help their students navigate these often turbulent waters.
Tests based on interest matching have been proven again and again to have little predictive power over future happiness or success. Use them with caution, and never rely on them to complete your entire career program.