“Working within a system,” Bill Sedlacek replied when Ray Diffley and I asked him about what one criterion among the many on his Non-Cog list he would choose to evaluate applicants, if he could choose only one.
Our conversation took place after Sedlacek’s keynote presentation at the University of Southern California’s Rossiter Center for Enrollment Research, Policy and Practice annual conference “Attributes That Matter,” which Ray and I attended on behalf of the SSATB Think Tank.
In his landmark book, Beyond the Big Test, Sedlacek elaborates: “the applicant’s ability to understand the role of the system in life and to develop a method of assessing the cultural or racial demands of the system and respond accordingly and assertively.” This is one of the eight research-based traits this distinguished scholar has, over a lifetime, determined “present a method of improving assessments for all students and are particularly useful for nontraditional students.”
We should be clear here: Sedlacek is not arguing we should dismiss traditional cognitive assessment in the form of the SAT or its analogues. Like Sternberg and other scholars in this field, he is calling for a more balanced approach, a both/and proposition that is entirely aligned with the mission of this Think Tank. To quote him in what might be something of a thesis for Beyond the Big Test:
We do not need to ignore our current tests; what we need is to add some new measures that expand the potential we can derive from the assessment. The goal of using non-cognitive variables is not to substitute this approach for the cognitive focus more commonly employed in assessments, but toadd to the range of attributes that we can consider in making the many judgments required of us all.” (Italics in original)