Tests and Cognition

Path to Success Power Point Presentation

The Cognitive Pathway to Success:

For lack of a better term, I refer to the attached illustration as the inverted “Time-Energy Pyramid”. The further down one “digs” the more cognitive skill is required to accomplish an assessment task. You will note that relatively simple tasks, like information recall and language interpretations (definitions) required relatively less time/energy commitment to succeed. Unfortunately, there are some classes that do not challenge students much beyond this point. Sadly, this may convey a misconception in a student’s mind’s that this is all that is required to be considered an “educated” person. However, intellectual discourse in any subject matter requires skills much beyond this nominal level. Rather than being able to answer true-false or definitional questions, a student operating at this level can logically analyze complex material from various points of view, consider implications and consequences, differentiate between competing concepts, and formulate and apply new knowledge.

I find the Time-Energy Pyramid is valuable in conveying the following inferences:

  1. There is a correlation between time and energy expended on a cognitive task and the cognitive skills developed thereby. A useful analogy in this regard is that of a fitness center. One can not expect “6 pack abs” by standing around watching others work out. The clear implication being that there is no free lunch in cognitive skill development. One must practice to achieve proficiency.
  2. A natural progressive of skills are required as prerequisites to achieving more advanced skills. In this respect, this is a modification or extrapolation of the classic notion in Bloom’s taxonomy, although there are conceptual differences in terminology.
  3. A conceptual map can be useful in identifying not only where a student might be in his or her cognitive development, i.e., self assessment, but also some end point to aspire to. It should be noted, for example, that the “logical analysis” referred to above is quite far down in the Time-Energy pyramid. It is also important to recognize that the end point of trait development is the work of a lifetime, and may never be fully achieved. This idea may be akin to Carl Roger’s classic notion of “self actualization” or achieving one’s full human potential. In legal terms, this is entirely consistent with the notion of the fictitious “reasonable person”.