Thursday, November 3, 2016

leadership dot #1616: underlying causes

A school that I am working with had low pass rates for its students who took the professional licensing exam after graduation. A degree in a specialized field isn't of much use unless the credential comes with it, so this posed a real problem.

The faculty attempted several different strategies to address the issue, but nothing seemed to work. Then someone came to understand that a piece of the problem was not the content -- students actually did know the material -- rather the format of the test. Licensure exams are all computerized, and the timing, wording and environment were causing issues with the novice test takers.

As a result of this insight, the college acquired a computerized testing program that was integrated into all the subject matter courses. Now the majority of the tests the students took throughout their time at the school were in the same format as the one they would take for their state certification.

The result? A 100% pass rate this year.

We often look for big solutions instead of understanding the small nuances of a complex topic. It is easy to jump to an obvious conclusion, and often difficult to find the underlying factors that make a real difference.

When you are trying to solve a problem, don't stop when you find a solution. Push yourself to discover multiple reasons why the undesirable is happening before you jump into problem solving. Maybe it is a pebble in your shoe instead of the shoe itself that needs attention.

-- beth triplett

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