Teaching Behavioral Competency with High Quality Content


June 21, 2021  |  Leann Pereira


The Science of Learning and Assessment: Using Video-Based Situational Judgment Tests

Situational judgment tests, or SJTs Situational Judgment Test (SJT) enable educational teams to teach and assess skills simultaneously. SJTs are especially useful when they are used to understand behavioral competencies required to be effective in complex, dynamic situations that require a lot of interpersonal interaction. SJTs are used in teaching and assessing behavioral competencies for professions like management and leadership roles, medical doctors, police officers, military, and diplomacy. These competencies are as complex as they are real, and they are also invisible, which makes them even harder to identify and understand.

SJTs have predictive power for assessing invisible competencies such as compassion, benevolence, and respect in medical school admissions tests, which are important in determining candidate admission, in addition to academic scores. SJTs are also effective in assessing infantry platoon leaders’ ability to make effective decisions in the field while experiencing multiple simultaneous stressors such as large workloads and unanticipated circumstances.

What is a Competency?

Let’s define competency using a light-hearted example. A competency is a set of skills that enable you to accomplish something consistently, even in different environments and settings. If you can sing well in the shower, should you be hired as a singer? While you can open your mouth and produce a sound, there are other skills a person has to demonstrate to be considered a singer, such as range, and vocal and breath control. If you can sing in the shower, maybe you can sing Karaoke at a bar with your friends. Still, your level of skill is not enough to get you hired as a wedding singer. Competent singers can adjust their performance according to the demands of the situation.

Situational judgment tests are useful because they test competencies, or clusters of skills and abilities all at once, in ways that traditional testing methods can’t. They are constructed to create a high-fidelity or “Hi-Fi” situation that mimics real life. In real life, behavioral companies such as emotional intelligence, empathy, and managing others are “tacit,” which means that they are, among other things, context-dependent, triggered by sensory inputs, and filtered through previous experiences. They are difficult to teach other than by demonstration or modeling because they are largely automatic and unconscious.

The more expert someone is, the more invisible or tacit knowledge they have, and the smoother and more hidden the demonstration of their competencies are. Their transparent demonstrations of skill melt into the situation and things seem very ordinary, but on track and under control. Alternatively, when the situation demands a competency that someone doesn’t have, the situation seems out of control, and things are left undone.

How to Teach Behavioral Competency

A scalable and practical way to teach behavioral competencies is to use high-quality video content. Videos can feature both tacit and explicit demonstrations of leading practices in the context of everyday work-life scenarios and increases the practical value of the lesson. Such Hi-Fi simulations make it more likely that learners will understand and apply the tacit skills modeled in the training to their work interactions and that they will do so with fewer errors.

Well-constructed video content allows learners to experience emotion as part of the lesson. As a result, they are therefore more likely to remember the learning experience compared with lessons that don’t activate the learners’ emotions.

Finally, great learning videos enable learners to engage with complex concepts such as bias, harassment, and discrimination. As a result, learners feel empathy when they experience circumstances from another person’s perspective. Studies show that practicing perspective-taking reduces bias and increases decision-making skills.

Check Emtrain’s online training courses to help your workforce develop the behavioral competencies needed to be successful in today’s changing world.


Leann Kang Pereira
Senior Director of Organizational Psychology
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