The curriculum changes in the Secondary Schools and the new University Grades adapted to the principles and convergence criteria towards a European Higher Education Area (Bologna Declaration) in Spain recommend studying the current intellectual abilities of the incoming first-year students. Therefore, some concerns need further analysis. On the one hand, Do students have the suitable skills for reaching success in the degree they enrolled? On the other hand, does the specific training and specialized education in High School provide them with the particular required profile for the academic degree?
As stated by Sternberg, psychometric tests focused on the analytical skills are not enough to properly identify aspects that go beyond intelligence academic, related with the creativity, the ability to react to new stimulus, the intuition or even the adaptability and practical intelligence.
This research is focused on detailing a real experience for solving the above-mentioned concerns by means of a field study that took place in the University of Oviedo. The underlined idea was to evaluate first-year students from different knowledge areas and degrees. This initiative started when teachers from different knowledge areas meet for a research project.
This initial group looked after more university staff for joining the proposal; finally, the working team (WT) included members from the psychology, the physical sciences and the computer sciences departments. Once the WT was defined, several other tasks need to be faced. One of the very first tasks to solve was to arrange subjects from a wide variety of degrees from different fields –society, biotechnology, law, engineering, etc.- in order to propose the students to collaborate in this experience. At the same time, the design of the psychology tests was of main concern.
However, both tasks were highly related, as the tests were dependent on the variety of the student distribution among the knowledge areas and, at the same time, the spread of the students’ distribution would eventually be fixed if the tests were finally designed.
Finally, the arranged subjects were chosen from psychology, literary and linguistics, mathematics, physical sciences, computer science and mechanical engineering. Meanwhile, the WT agreed to evaluate the following skills for discriminating the different capabilities of the students: the reading comprehension and verbal reasoning, the abstract reasoning, the capacity for planning, managing and problem solving, the decision making ability, the spatial working memory, and the flexibility and inhibition tests.
The different tests were developed using different techniques, i.e., an applet implemented the Hanoy Tower Test for evaluating the capacity for planning, managing and problem solving. Other tests were just multiple choice tests, etc. The University of Oviedo web platform for virtual campus –which is based on Moodle-was used as the basic framework for tests deployment and data gathering, though it was not possible to integrate the data from the applets into the Moodle due to security issues.
The experimentation took place on the second semester of year 2011-2012. In spite of the problems raised when making the tests and in the data preprocessing stage, enough valid data was gathered and we consider the experience as a success. Nowadays, we are finishing the analysis of the data, where several interesting issues have been already extracted.