Re: student selection criteria

>This message comes from the school of design at Curtin University of Technolgy
>Western Australia. The school is currently evaluating its selection procedures
> and we hope that this message will bring other ideas into the debate.
>We currently select students on a combination of tertiary entrance exam
>folio revues, interview, and set drawing and aptitude tests. This process
>is very time consuming and whilst it seems like a fair way which gives a range
>of applicants access to the course, we do not have any proof that this is
>any better than the practice adopted by other schools; i.e. going by the
>tertiary score. Any views on this will be very welcome

I cannot comment on _design_ students, but I have done some work on
selection for architecture students, whose main course component is, of
course, design. Below are just about all the references I could obtain
which bore on the matter. Most are fairly old. I guess that work of this
type, psychometrics, is no longer very popular for assessing student
potential. In brief the results of all these studies are:

* There is no reliable way, using psychometric measures of ANY sort, to
predict success in architectural design. Oh, yes, most of the authors
_claim_ to have discovered something, but a glance at their actual
correlations shows them to be engaged in the most facile psychological
fantasising. Good enough to get a paper published, but utterly useless in

* Aptitude tests, like drawing tests, are not much use either,
surprisingly. These, obviously, pick up students already possessed of some
particular ability, but do not guage the student's suitability for the long
educational process and the myriad other factors that make for educational

* The best predictor of success in a design course is success in a previous
design course. Brilliant, Watson. Useful for graduate programs, but not for

* Interviews are NOT (repeat, NOT) good predictors. Rotten, in fact.
Interviews do show very high inter-judge reliability, that is, there are
some people who do well in interviews regardless of who is doing the
interviewing, and there are some who do not.

Now my own opinions:

* There is considerable evidence that there is little correlation between
those who do well in design courses at university, and in their later
careers. If so, we might as well forget the whole screening process and
pick people randomly.

* Forget psychometric, aptitude and other psychological tests and
indicators. Instead look for the social factors, most importantly family
background. My own work (ahem, ahem) will show (ahem, ahem) that the
student's cultural background is the best predictor of success.

** Herewith Garry's Infallible Success-in-Design Predictor Test.
Instructions: Ask the student the following questions--

1. Name the composer closely associated with Peter Greenway's films. (1
2. Do you play the piano or violin? (1 point)
3. How many foreign languages do you know? (1 pt each. No points for parent
4. How many artists, designers, critics or gallery owners do you know
personally? (1 pt each)
5. Have you been to an art gallery in the past six months? (1 pt)
6. Do you object to being asked these questions? (1 pt for yes, 0 for no)

The higher the score, the more likely is success!

The references:

Abercrombie, M. L. J., S. Hunt and P. Stringer (1969) Selection and
Academic Performance of Students in a University School of Architecture,
Society for Research into Higher Education, London.

Abercrombie, M. L. J., S. M. Hunt and P. Stringer (1972) "Follow Up of the
Selection Procedure Used at the Bartlett School 1964-66", Architectural
Research and Teaching 2(2): 76-87.
Dolke, A. M. and R. S. Sharma (1975) "General Aptitude Test Battery (GATB)
as a Predictor of Academic Success in Architectural Courses", Indian
Journal of Psychology 50(2): 163-173.
Domer, D. E. and A. E. Johnson (1982) "Selective Admissions and Academic
Success: An Admissions Model for Architecture Students", College and
University 58: 19-30.
Heussenstamm, F. K. (?) "On the Education of Architects: A Study of Fourth
Year Students at the University of Southern California", Studies in Art
Education ?: 43-49.
Hinton, D. (1970) "Are Schools of Architecture Choosing the Right
Students?", Architects' Journal (1 April): 796-799.
Kanner, A. D. (1976) "Femininity and Masculinity: Their Relationships to
Creativity in Male Architects and Their Independence from Each Other",
Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 44(5): 802-805.
Karlins, M., C. Schuerhoff and M. Kaplan (1969) "Some Factors Related to
Architectural Creativity in Graduating Architecture Students", Journal of
General Psychology 81: 203-215.
Peterson, J. M. and G. Sweitzer (1973) "Field-Independent Architecture
Students", Perceptual and Motor Skills 36: 195-198.
Peterson, J. M. and G. Sweitzer (1974) "Left-Handedness Among Architects:
Some Facts and Speculation", Perceptual and Motor Skills 38: 547-550.
Research and Teaching 2(1): 23-33.
Schmidt, H. E. (1973) "The Identification of High and Low Creativity in
Architecture Students", Psychologia Africana 15: 15-40.
Schmidt, H. E. (1973) "Personality Correlates of the Creative Architecture
Student", Perceptual and Motor Skills 36: 1030.
Stringer, P. (1971) "The Role of Spatial Ability in a First Year
Architecture Course", Architectural
Garry Stevens
Dept of Architectural and Design Science
University of Sydney
NSW 2006
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