Wednesday, March 17, 2010

"Understanding Cognitive Skills Testing: What Is It? Why Have It Admin? & Where To Find It?"

We can now all move forward to new learning and achievement heights, providing we understand how our own information processing works. Our reluctance to be the very best we can be, can now be left behind us. My work is based upon the premise that “intelligence” is trainable, and that skills, like reading, writing, mathematics and problem solving are dependent on cognitive information processing basic blocks called “primitives.”

Why understand what these blocks are? Because all work proficiency, including academic achievement, depends upon how our “mind works” operate. The renowned psychologist, J. P. Guilford, identified 150 cognitive skills cubes, called the Structure of Intellect theory (SOI), which has been used as a foundation and measurement of general intelligence for decades. See footnote.

Why should we care? Because our future endeavors, how we cope with everyday life and our achievements/life styles will depend upon our information processing capabilities. It will become our lifetime path we lead, and how contented we will be with what we end up doing as a livelihood.

How do we find out what capabilities we have? It is through standardized cognitive skills testing and evaluations can show information processing strengths and weaknesses of the individual.

Why is testing and evaluation not routinely prescribed? Why do we not know about it? It is because testing can only be administered by highly trained, state certified, professionals at the masters/doctoral degreed levels. These people include psychologists, school psychologists, and learning disability specialists. Testing companies will not sell testing materials to anyone other than these highly qualified and trained professionals, who are trained to do measurement and evaluations.

Subsequently, the testing requires trained expertise, money, and takes time. One set of cognitive skills tests usually runs from $2,500. - $3,000. Therefore, parents often go to physicians or psychiatrists who can prescribe medication to calm the learner, which may appear to be a quick, inexpensive solution. Yet, this intervention is not low-cost, and can run $100. a month or more depending upon insurance coverage. And, prescribed medication can become habit-forming.

There is little, if any, scientific knowledge, summarizing the life-long effects of any kind of stimulant medication on the brain and body that is used to increase focus and concentration needed for learning new material.

Cognitive skills training and cognitive skills assessment has been available for some time. In 1975, Guilford's student, Dr. Mary Meeker, formed the "Structure of Intellect" (SOI) Institute and trained educators how to measure cognitive skills according to task. She and her husband, Robert, designed tests and materials. The SOI Institute exists today with clinicians in every state that have been trained at their "Advanced Level" out of four levels of experienced practice and training. The program has focused on reading, math, and learning problems, early childhood weaknesses, Gifted instruction with remediating missing blocks, and career counseling.

Yet, cognitive skills measurement and standardized testing has not been mainstreamed for the average, yet ambitious person, due to training, time, and cost constraints. Generally speaking, individuals needing remediation were tested either privately, in schools, clinics, or within learning institutions.

Subsequently, many who who were fortunate enough to obtain low-cost assessments and training, or at no cost through their school, later felt embarrassed that they might be considered as "inadequate or a slow learner." Yet, they could subsequently experience giant steps forward in perceiving and learning new information faster and reaching greater career heights. Now, this sense of "being singled out as imperfect or having a problem " is no longer the case, as we move forward with a new dimension of identifying learning strengths and weaknesses to create the high performing, confident individual. We must all excel. Tomorrow's world is demanding it of us.

How can I get started with solid, eye-opening measurement of my own or my children’s cognitive skills if it is expensive and time consuming? Is this beneficial, and worth the time and trouble?

Soon there will be available online options that will offer access to finding the right professional in your area, who will now charge less for solid evaluations. And, the online options will give you the information you need and want, and point you in the right direction for not only testing, measurement and evaluations, but for instructional, learning solutions.

My dream is that most of us will want optimum mental fitness in the future for our children and ourselves the same way we want physical fitness and personal well-being. It will be our choice to move forward to higher levels. We can be competitive in the new, global world.

Footnote: Guilford, J.P. (1967). The Nature of Human Intelligence. New York: McGraw-Hill. In Guilford's Structure of Intellect (SOI) theory, intelligence is viewed as comprising operations, contents, and products. There are 5 kinds of operations (cognition, memory, divergent production, convergent production, evaluation), 6 kinds of products (units, classes, relations, systems, transformations, and implications), and 5 kinds of contents (visual, auditory, symbolic, semantic, behavioral). Since each of these dimensions is independent, there are theoretically 150 different components of intelligence.