One of the most common forms of assessment, which provides a rich array and great depth of data, is observation. Whenever a consultant observes a client on the field or on stage, interacting with teammates, coaches, other performers, or parents, and considers the dynamics of these interactions or events that take place and subsequent effects on performance, they are engaging in assessment. And, trust me, consultants assess this way frequently. But there is a trap lurking in the consultant’s mind – bias.

            I hear it now – hisssss; bias, what an evil word. But as much as we may try, each of us is biased in certain ways as a result of socialization. The trick is how we manage this bias so it influences our assessment as little as possible.

             Enter. Stage right. The [insert large city] Symphony Orchestra. How many women do you see? Answer: Probably not as many as you should…if blind auditions were not used in the selection process. In a study conducted by Cecilia Rouse and Claudia Goldin, professors at Princeton and Harvard respectively, female musicians’ chances for moving past the first cut rose an astounding 50% when they took part in blind auditions where evaluators could not see them. The researchers believe that 30% of the total increase of women in professional orchestras between 1970 and the middle of the 1990’s may be attributed to blind auditions during tryouts (Marks, 2001).

            So what does this mean? We each need to self reflect and be honest with ourselves regarding possible biases we might have and their effect on our observational assessment. Only then will we be able to implement measures, such as blind auditions, to ensure that we are not unfairly denying advancement to any particular group.

References

Marks, M. (2001). Blind auditions key to hiring musicians. Princeton Weekly Bulletin, 90(16). Retrieved from http://www.prin ceton.edu/pr/pwb/01/0212/7b.shtml

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