Inaugural Run of FocusRing™, the World’s First Subjective Supercomputer, Proves the Capacity to Assess the Independent Variables of Academic and Career Success


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According to a popular myth, in order to reach mastery and expertise in any profession you must first put in 10,000 hours of practice. Pioneering Human Performance researcher at Florida State University, Dr. Anders Ericsson, recently stepped forward to clarify this myth. According to Ericsson’s book “Peak,” what really counts towards building expertise is what he terms “deliberate practice.” Deliberate practice distills to four independent variables: practice, consistency of practice, tracking your practice, and “mental mapping.”

CollegeNET successfully demonstrated in its November StandOut Challenge Interview competition that its new FocusRing technology can assess these attributes at scale. FocusRing presented candidates with a video script of questions that probed for the independent variables of practice, and then, after receiving their answers, gave each of them the task of scoring the answers given by other randomly assigned candidates.

The World’s First Subjective Supercomputer

FocusRing is called the world’s first “subjective supercomputer” because it is the first technology to extend the cognitive “Evaluation” skill exercised by humans when they are answering a question into the subsequent task of evaluating answers to the same question given by others. This peer review not only provides for shared and unlimited scalability of the scoring function, it also allows each student to learn from others. By contrast, traditional siloed college assessment tests such as the SAT or ACT require test takers to hide their work from other candidates, thus cutting off the opportunity to learn from others.

As computer scientist and FocusRing co-inventor Jim Wolfston explains: “Regardless of whether we find ourselves in a casual social situation or a formal business setting, when we prepare to answer a question posed by others we immediately and subliminally invoke three real-time cognition skills: Configuration; Evaluation/Self-Editing; and Delivery. During Configuration, we choose from our base of ideas, evaluate those ideas, and arrange them for delivery.

During Delivery we extend the Evaluation based on our own internal and auditory feedback and the feedback being given to us by our listeners (if any). Our real-time Evaluation thus forms a question-specific mental bridge spanning the configuration and delivery of our answer. What FocusRing provides is the chance to re-use and extend this evaluation bridge. Given that we already answered the question, we are very well positioned to apply the same evaluation bridge to the task of assessing answers to the same question given by others. Further, as we assess the answers given by others, we learn from them and thus extend our own base of ideas.”

The Paradox of Traditional Academic Testing

The fundamental deficiency in traditional assessment testing is that traditional tests measure only the dependent variables of academic performance (e.g., how much math does a student already know?). The paradox here from an educational perspective is that at the same time a college is aiming to teach a subject, it is constrained by technology and tradition to selecting candidates who already know the most about that subject, not necessarily those who would attack and learn the subject with the highest persistence and discipline.

Although assessing a dependent variable such as a student’s math skills provides indirect evidence that a high-scoring candidate may also possess the independent skills around practice that drive math skill acquisition and learning, this causation is by no means certain. Particularly in today’s era of SAT super-scoring where students take standardized tests multiple times and both the student and the school choose the highest score, irrelevant factors such as guessing, statistical anomaly, expensive test coaching, and the family’s capability to pay for multiple tests all blur away the ability of the school to discern the key behavioral traits around consistency, discipline and practice that drive academic and career performance.

These test prep techniques and strategies—all overwhelmingly available to richer students and families—thus bias educational testing to the wealthy, further exacerbate our national decline in social mobility, and suppress recognition and educational opportunity for other students who may, in fact, possess superior practice skills and discipline.

As the November candidates answered questions on video and then watched and assessed the answers given by others through FocusRing, they not only proved their own authenticity, they also made judgments about the credibility of others in the competition. Unlike essays that can be written and edited by others or standardized tests that can be gamed, the human minds arrayed in a FocusRing ensure authenticity in the results and outcome.

Also Read: Artificial Intelligence vs. Human Intelligence: Which is more reliable for Business Growth?

The Importance of Mental Mapping

Of particular note was that the winners of the November StandOut Challenge Interview competition demonstrated high facility at “mental mapping.” This important component of deliberate practice describes a person’s appetite for conjuring rules of thumb, shortcuts, metaphors, and patterns in newly learned information. For example, first-place winner Lauren Hockaday commented that an important maxim she has developed around good writing is to “show, don’t tell.” Second-place winner Youssef Ali remarked that learning multiple languages can serve as his prism for understanding the same ideas in different ways. Cascade Howe, third-place winner, described how she achieves practice consistency by making art part of her morning routine.

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TalkDev Bureau
TalkDev Bureau
The TalkDev Bureau has five well-trained writers and journalists, well versed in B2B enterprise technology industry, and constantly in touch with industry leaders for the latest trends, opinions, and other inputs- to bring you the best and latest in the domain.

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