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Idea-ology : Introducing Projective and Psychometric Tests

This week I have published my Teaching Critical Thinking in Psychology essay where I reflect on what is critical thinking and consider different classroom activities that I use to foster these skills in my students. This is from the abstract of the essay:

There is a wealth of literature across many domains that attempt to define what critical thinking is and how it can be implemented in classrooms and lecture theatres at both undergraduate level and post-16 education. This essay will attempt to define critical thinking in the context of post-16 psychology delivery, outline several specific interventions and scaffolds that can be implemented in a psychology classroom and assess how one could measure the effectiveness of any critical thinking strategies. Finally, the nature of critical thinking is discussed and a more appropriate term of ‘rational thinking’ is put forward as a label of what is desired from post-16 students.

venn-diagramOne tool that I use a lot in class in many different ways are Venn diagrams (in the theme of Venn’s, an interesting comparison here is that he also came from and lived in Hull) . These are excellent ways for students to visualise comparisons and contrasts in many different contexts. I use them for evaluation of studies, comparisons of treatments and as a tool to get learners thinking about how some issues can applied to two (or even three, four …) different concepts in psychology.

I have been asked how I might introduce projective tests and psychometric tests to students (in relation to the Thigpen and Cleckley’s study of Chris Sizemore) and with twitter being prohibitive to the 140 characters it was a great opportunity to start a new set of posts that I have been meaning to for a while that I am going to call ‘idea-ology’ – just some ideas that I have come up with (or shamelessly stolen from other excellent teachers) that I think could be used, butchered or ignored by other teachers.

When it comes to discussing personality with students the discussion often comes around to considering how we could measure personality. Ideas flow from the students; personality tests, interviews, clothing choice, number of friends on their myface/bebop profiles etc. I always like to introduce personality testing through the students conducting tests of their own. My usual task involves using a Venn diagram with psychometric tests at one side and projective tests at the other. The psychometric test I use is Eysenck’s EPI extroversion-introversion test. When students have completed this I introduce projective tests with the Rorschach inkblots and discuss these, what they see and what this might mean. I then administer a ‘projective test of my own’ – the Sketch Personality Measure.

Each student is given a sheet of A4 and a pen. They are told:

You will have 30 seconds to draw your interpretation of what I am about to say. You will only have to draw one item for this test. You will only have 30 seconds then the test will be complete. Do you understand? You are to draw … a tree.

Thirty seconds later you will have a massive array of trees produced, bushy ones, stick ones; once I even had a Christmas tree drawn. With this you then state that following your training you will now interpret their drawings and give them the results of their projective tests. Each tree tells us four things about the person:

  1. Confidence: the larger the tree on the page the more confident the person is. Find examples of both massive and tiny trees to demonstrate this.
  2. Optimism: the more ‘extra stuff’ in the image the more optimistic the individual is; do you have fruit in the tree? maybe a bird in the sky? a sun shining down? You’re optimistic.
  3. Happiness: the more foliage on the tree the happier you are with life. The more branches you have the more troubled you are.
  4. ‘Groundedness’: do you know what you want from the future? If your tree has roots you know where you are and where you want to be, if it’s floating around mid-air you don’t have the direction you need to move on.

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Following the laughs and giggles you have going through this go around the room and ask how valid the measure of personality was for each individual. Then comes the disclosure that you made it all up. There is no such thing as the Sketch Personality Measure. Then using the Venn as a scaffold discussion about the validity of both personality measures can follow and comparison of the methods can be added to the Venn.

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