Overview of WORKING

Years of research, development, and testing led to the creation of this statistically valid and reliable diagnostic and prescriptive instrument. WORKING assesses workplace competencies similar to those in the SCANS Report released by the United States Department of Labor. It is an assessment instrument designed to assess proficiency in nine competencies which go beyond academic/technical skills and knowledge. It provides information to the individual being assessed and gives teachers, trainers, and others a framework within which they can develop instructional and other learning activities. WORKING can be used in college, high school, and workplace settings.


Curtis Miles, Ed.D., Piedmont Technical College
Phyllis Grummon, Ph.D., Michigan State University

The Development of WORKING

WORKING emerged in a number of stages. The first was recognition that, although there is a growing clamor to insure that the workforce has a "good work-ethic" and related traits, there is a notable lack of simple, inexpensive ways to measure many of the key competencies. The second stage for WORKING was to assess what specific competencies were being demanded. Many broad studies (such as SCANS) were analyzed and compared in terms of how often they called for (or implied a need for) each of 24 different competencies. This data, combined with discussions with businessmen and educators, led to a focus on nine of these competencies which seemed to rate high on three criteria: particularly important (in the workplace, and often in the classroom), infrequently or never covered in available assessment instruments, and/or likely to be validly assessable in a self-rating format.

These nine competencies were then translated into specific items through an extensive series of steps. First, focus groups brainstormed some 412 items covering the nine areas. These were progressively sorted, reviewed, and refined (by psychometricians, teachers, employers, employees, and students) through three rounds into 254, 149, and then 108 items. These were informally piloted with several groups, reducing the number of possible items to 85.

The 85 items were then combined into a structured instrument (a forerunner of the final WORKING format) and formally pilot tested. Sixteen colleges and universities in eleven states were recruited and were sent field-test packets. Ultimately, thirteen institutions (rural, suburban, and urban, two-year and four-year) participated, representing 640 useable returns. Results were tallied and were compared with teacher ratings. Employers (for working students) were queried, but the data, though interesting, was too scant for statistical use.

Statistical analysis was conducted to determine which items of WORKING were the strongest predictors, in combination, in each of the nine areas. This analysis led to reduction in the number of items from 85 to the final 50-item scales of WORKING. The statistical analyses revealed several interesting relationships: high scores correlate with years of work experience on all but one scale (not teamwork); GPA correlates with scores on six of the scales (not teamwork, systems thinking, or adapting to change); and teacher ratings and student self-ratings were very similar on eight of nine scales (not adapting to change). All of these results suggest strong, useful information.

WORKING is a statistically valid and reliable assessment, independently verified by Public Policy Associates. See the WORKING Technical Manual for greater detail on the nature of each scale, the evolution and validation of the instrument, and on the need for the instrument.