Monday, February 20, 2006

Rethinking/revisiting the concept of "aptitude"

I was digging through some old electronic notes this evening from the book "Remaking the Concept of Aptitiude: Extending the Legacy of Richard E. Snow" and felt a need to share some text from the first chapter.

I believe that Richard Snow's concept of "aptitude", which has its roots in the original/historical notions of construct, needs to command more attention of practicing psycholgogists, esp. those working in the schools. That is, both a student's cognitive and conative abilities need to be considered in educational planning. Below is some selected text that helps define the concept of aptitude and how it differs from ability.

Just some food for thought........
  • Managers try to arrange conditions to get the best from the people they hire. In the same way, teachers strive to arrange the learning situation to get the best from their students. The conditions that bring out the best in one employee or student, however, may not inspire another. Each person has worked out over many years how to respond in her own way to symbol systems and social cues. Each has aptitude for particular situations. Recognizing specifically the qualites each person brings to a situation, then adiusting the situation to improve the fitt-these are major tasks of those who work with people
  • Aptitude, said Snow, should refer to being equipped to work at a particular kind of task or in a particular kind of situation.
  • The concept of aptitude ls especially close to that of readiness (as in “reading readlness”), suitability (for a purpose or position), susceptability (to treatment or persuasion), proneness (as in “accident-prone"). All imply a predisposition to respond in away that fits, or does not fit, a particular situation or class of situations. The common thread is potentiality-a latent quality that enables the development or production, given specified conditions, of some more advanced performance. (See Scheffler, 1985.) In this book we use the term aptitude to mean degree of readiness to learn and to perform well in a particular situation or in a fixed domain.
  • Ability is a generic term referring to the power to carry out some type of undertaking. Abilities are of many kinds: reading comprehension, spatial ability, perceptual speed, knowledge of (for example] geography, and physical coordination. Each facilitates functionning in some kinds of situation.
  • Although every situation draws on abilities, aptitude is not limited to ability. Aspects of personality--achievement motivation, freedom from anxiety, appropriately positive self-concept, control of impulses,and others--are aptitudes as well, contributing importantly to coping with some challenges. The opposite qualities—anxious caution or impulsiveness, for example--can also be assets (i.e., aptitude) at certain moments.
  • A complete theory of aptitude, then, must consider affective and conative processes as well as abilities.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I can't remember my password so this is going to be an anonymous post.

The distinction between aptitude and ability is an important one that I think needs to be made more salient to practitioners. I have seen an unfortunate and steady slide into using them as synonyms.

I'm linking to this important post.