Assessing Skills Habits and Style

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.

WORKING can be used as:

  • a catalyst for many teaching, training, counseling, and career/job planning activities;
  • a launching pad for discussion, instruction, application, planning, and all types of productive learning activities;
  • the basis of seminars, counseling sessions, classes, orientations, changes in teaching/learning processes, and the like;
  • the contexts associated with helping students prepare for their careers and/or strengthen their success in college.

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. This data, combined with discussions with businessmen and women 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.


WORKING was developed by Curtis Miles, Ed.D., Piedmont Technical College and Phyllis Grummon, Ph.D., Michigan State University.

Taking Responsibility

Students’ scores on this scale measure their desire to complete tasks they begin and to ensure that all aspects of a task are identified and done well. Students who score low on this measure need to work on learning strategies for identifying the components of a task and setting goals for task completion. Students who consistently neglect their responsibilities may need counseling on the long-term consequences of such behavior, particularly on their likelihood of succeeding in a job.

Working in Teams

Students’ scores on this scale measure the degree to which they feel comfortable working in teams and are able to use the skills associated with effective teamwork. Students who score low on this scale may need more experience in working in teams to accomplish a task. They need to learn the qualities of an effective team member, including taking responsibility for individual assignments and for deciding how the team should accomplish its goal. Communication is also a critical factor in successful teamwork.


Students who score either low or very high on this scale may have trouble in this area. Students who score low have trouble sticking with a task or learning assignment long enough to see it to its satisfactory completion. They may give up too soon to really benefit from instruction. Students who score too high may be seen as stubborn and unwilling to compromise when such compromise is needed because of limited resources or available time.

A Sense of Quality

Students who score low on this scale need help in understanding how exceeding expectations can help them succeed in everything they do. Students may need guidance in learning how to judge what is "just enough" versus "more than expected" and why doing more is beneficial. Students who score low are also likely to need help in focusing in on details and paying attention to the quality with which work is done, rather than simply doing work.

Life-Long Learning

Employers identify the ability to learn as a key to success on a first job and to advancement to higher-level work. Students’ scores on this scale indicate an interest in engaging in learning in a variety of settings. Students who score low on this scale have a reluctance to look for learning opportunities and to take advantage of them when they are presented. Students may need help in identifying the many places and ways in which they can learn that go beyond the traditional educational setting. Students who are not motivated to continue learning may find their skills obsolete sooner than they wish.

Adapting to Change

Students’ scores on this scale indicate their level of comfort with frequent or major changes in their environment. Students who score low are less likely to seek out new experiences or to adjust to changes they experience. Students with a low tolerance for change may have trouble working in many environments where change is the norm. They need counseling to help them identify ways in which they can increase their ability to adapt to change.

Permanent Problem Solving

Students’ scores on this scale indicate their interest and skill at using systematic problem solving methods when approaching complex problems. Students who score low need help in understanding how to approach problems in a step-by-step fashion. Experience in using the scientific method or other systematic problem-solving approach should help them increase their skills in this area.

Information Processing

Students’ scores on this scale provide insights into their competence in managing their own learning and in having and using multiple strategies when learning. Students who score low on this measure need to learn methods that they can use to help add meaning and organization to what they are trying to learn. Encouraging students to make active connections to their prior knowledge and experience is important. Equally important may be many basic study skill techniques, like outlining, paraphrasing, and summarizing.

Systems Thinking

Students’ scores on this scale indicate their understanding of the relationship among parts in a system and the effects of actions within a system. Students who have a working knowledge of one system may still need help in translating that knowledge into general principles of systems thinking. Students who score low may be helped by learning the components of a specific system before being introduced to these general principles. These students need to understand that events do not happen in isolation and that their actions may have effects that are distant in time or space.