Tag Archives: disability

Low end disruptive innovation in psychometric testing for students with disabilities

The new ‘Legal Recruit’ site (twitter thread), to launch on 1 November 2011, offers law students a chance to get better at the verbal reasoning test of the sort they might do if they have to a @SHLGROUP test as part of an application for a training contract or vacation scheme placement. The only way to practice these tests properly is to try out the practice assessment which SHL Direct have themselves set.

As a student with a visual impairment myself (I have problems visualising text because of significant diplopia), I wished to design a platform so that students, including students with visual impairments, can easily practice verbal reasoning tests. I’d like law students who are applying through these SHL tests to get good at them. The online practice platform I’ve designed is an example of disruptive technology; I am currently studying innovation management as part of my special electives on my MBA at BPP Business School (as a full-time student).

Disruptive technologies are not always disruptive to customers, and often take a long time before they are significantly disruptive to established companies. I have no intention of making my platform ‘disruptive’ to SHL. In fact, I want students, including people like me with disabilities, to perform well or even shine at these tests when they’re applying for the corporate firms that use them. This unfortunately goes along with the idea popular amongst disabled trainees and disabled seniors that often that you have ‘to be better than the competition’, just to get to play on the “equal playing field”, sad but true, if true.

Disruptive technologies are often difficult to recognise. Indeed, as Professor Clayton Christensen points out and studies have shown (Clayton is Chair in Business Administration at the Harvard Business School, it is often entirely rational for incumbent companies to ignore disruptive innovations, since they can compare so badly with existing technologies or products, and the deceptively small market available for a disruptive innovation is often very small compared to the market for the established technology. SHL is a well-established provider of psychometric tests in the “grown-up world” of legal recruitment; my platform is run to help students who wish to succeed to the best of their ability in an incredibly competitive marketplace.

Disruptive technologies like my psychometric testing platform, too, can be subtly disruptive, rather than prominently so. Previous examples include digital photography (the sharp decline in consumer demand for common 35 mm print film resulting from the popularity of memory cards). In fact, my online assessment platform contains many of the features that work about the SHL verbal reasoning tests (such as a chance to know how much time has elapsed etc.). The subtle disruption I’m introducing is a simple button where you can enlarge the size of text, a simple innovation, but one which can make a huge difference to the wellbeing or happiness of students doing such tests. The point about my test is that the student can now concentrate on getting the answers to the verbal reasoning problems correct, not concentrate on surviving reading the text with enormous difficulty in the time limit.

For example, here’s the sample question for the learner without reasonable adjustments.

Now, here’s the sample question for the learner with reasonable adjustments for visual impairments, in accordance with the Equality Act 2010.

I hope that students with visual impairments, dyslexia or dyspraxia know that they can “ask for reasonable adjustments”. If legal recruiters fail to make such reasonable adjustments on the production of appropriate evidence, they may indeed be acting unlawfully under equality discrimination here in the UK. I believe my innovation is actually a low end disruption.  Arguably, Spotify is an example of a ‘low end disruption’ (see for example here). This is a powerful concept in innovation management, described here for Spotify:

At first, a disruptive product fails to deliver a superior offering to the incumbent technology in one or more characteristics of the job-to-be-done. But consumers switch nonetheless because the disruptor has a systemic advantage in at least one of these characteristics. We gave up minicomputer performance for the cost advantage of PCs, we gave up plasma television contrast for the slimness of the LCD, and we gave up the personality of written letters for the speed of emails.

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Legal Recruit will be observing ‘best practices’ for design of online practice assessments

The ‘Legal Recruit’ twitter thread (@legal_recruit) is already active.

A small secret group has been set up to provide a normal distribution of data from graduates to norm-reference performance of graduates on the new ‘Legal Recruit’ online verbal reasoning tests.

Psychometric tests have become very significant in legal  recruitment. SHL verbal reasoning tests have become widely used in legal recruitment for corporate law firms for London. A lot of weight is given to their results in shortlisting (or not) good candidates for interview for vacation schemes and training contract applications. It is very important that such tests are used responsibly. My ‘Legal Recruit’ will not be seeking official accreditation from the BPS as my tests are not official psychological tests, and are only meant to be used as useful guidance for law students applying to corporate firms merely as practice. The history of the development of these SHL tests by Roger Holdsworth and Peter Saville is interesting, and briefly given in Roger Holdsworth’s obituary in the Telegraph:

“Holdsworth became convinced that psychometric testing could be developed to assist companies in selecting suitable employees. In 1977 he got together with Peter Saville, whom he had met at the British Psychological Society, to found Saville and Holdsworth (later SHL), a business to develop and promote psychometric testing. Psychometric testing took off in the Second World War, when it was used extensively in the armed services to assess personnel, but by the 1960s, when Holdsworth began his career as a business psychologist, it had failed to catch on elsewhere. Most companies recruited staff on the basis of highly subjective interviews or through the “old boy network”. Not only did Holdsworth feel this was unfair, he knew it led to poor decisions. From its beginnings in a spare room, SHL expanded rapidly, profiting from growing demand for the tests from large firms seeking to identify their own “corporate culture” and recruit staff to fit that mould. Drawing on his aptitude for languages – he spoke 5 fluently – Holdsworth led SHL’s expansion into more than 30 countries.”

Psychological tests, by definition, have to test well-understood cognitive domains in a validated, repeatable, consistent, measurable way. ‘Legal Recruit’ tests are not specialised psychological tests, examining specific cognitive domains. They are, however, intended to allow practice for SHL tests which are widely used by corporate law firms.

Indeed, tbe British Psychological Society (“BPS”) has a register of accreditated tests, which contains some SHL tests. According to the official website of the BPS devoted to psychometric testing,

“Test Registration has been developed to inform and protect the public by the use of ‘quality marks’ on tests that meet the European Federation of Psychologists Association (EFPA) criteria to be classed as having adequate psychological properties. Tests can be registered if they meet minimum quality standards. The quality standards are set by the European Federation of Psychologists Associations and the tests are assessed against the standard through the review process.”

The British Psychological Society maintain standards for psychological testing: according to their website, “Psychological tests are used in all walks of life to assess ability, personality and behaviour. A test can be used as part of the selection process for job interviews, to assess children in schools, assess people with mental health issues or offenders in prisons. The British Psychological Society’s Psychological Testing Centre (PTC) is the first point of contact for anyone who uses, takes or develops tests.. “

I have a deep interest in cognitive neuropsychology, as my PhD from Cambridge and my post-doctoral fellowship from London were in this discipline (particularly the role of the frontal lobes in reasoning, planning and decision-making), As I am disabled with visual impairment, I will ensure that my tests can be done by learners with visual impairments; and all other reasonable adjustments are provided. Whilst the Legal Recruit tests will not be officially accreditated by the BPS, they will all be observing best practice. Some critical documents in best practice by the BPS are provided here,

A test taker’s guide

The code of good practice in psychological testing

Draft Data Protection and Privacy Issues in Employment Related Settings

The BPS also draws attention to the disability issues, in keeping with the corporate law firms’ obligations with the Equality Act (2010):

Dyslexia and Occupational Testing

Visual Impairment and Psychological Testing.pdf

Psychometric Testing for people with a hearing impairment1.pdf

The BPS draw attention also to ‘good practice’ guidelines over computerised testing. ‘Legal Recruit’ will be adhering to these guidelines:

 International Guidelines on Computer-Based and Internet Delivered Tests

Using online assessment tools for recruitment.pdf

Guidelines on the Validity of Graphology in Personnel Assessment

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