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Motivation Statements? They don’t work

VU International News and Reviews No. 105 January 29 2018

January 2018

Next month, Anna Niessen will defend her PhD dissertation “New rules, new tools: Predicting academic achievement in college admissions”, reporting on a multi-cohort analysis on the predictive value of motivation and other personal competencies or traits on the selection of students in higher education programmes.

She has found – what many practitioners will agree with from their experience – that assessing motivation and personal competencies and traits is, in the first place, hard to do in a reliable way: you can’t be sure that your measurement is accurate. And in the second place, even if you make the measurement as truthful as you can, its predictive value on study success is negligible.

Anna Niessen argues that giving applicants test tasks that are similar to the real programme (curriculum samples), yields much better predictive results. As she ends her abstract: “A major challenge in establishing effective and fair selection decisions in education and in organizations is to overcome the reliance on intuitions and gut feelings; scientific knowledge based on selection psychology should be utilized in practice much more.”

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