Psychometrics is the field of psychology in which researchers attempt to measure the traits and preferences of human personality and quantify them. In an attempt to understand human personality, psychometricians have tried to use different instruments and scales to create a reliable method of analyzing personal preferences and vulnerabilities. Over the past century, rigorous testing has left us with reasonably reliable and valid scientific tests like Big Five Test and Myer-Briggs Type Inventory.
Big five scores a human being’s personal preferences on five scales namely Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism. Myer-Briggs Type Inventory measures the same inclinations and divides the results between 16 types of distinct personalities. There are many articles written on the correlation between the two and how to translate the scores on one scale to another.
The question, however, remains how to put these tests to practice and create a working plan for individuals that will enable them to have a higher quality of life. One of the ways this can be done is to understand the strength and weaknesses of your temperament. For example, it is a no-brainer that consistent public interaction will drain out an introvert and will result in break-down or burn out.
How do we convert these understandings and their implications in the educational sector so that students have a deep understanding of themselves and their surroundings from the very beginning of their careers and studies? For that, I conducted an experiment with my undergraduate students. The goal was to identify their personality types and use them to give them engaging choices of learning materials to find out if that has impacted their academic performances and have boosted their self-confidence. I started with selecting teaching assistants and conducting a workshop for them to understand the foundations of psychometric testing and how to administer that on others.
Students were profiled based on their Myers Briggs Type Inventory of 16 distinct personality types. Each was given specific learning aids of appropriate learning styles out of seven learning styles based on the work of American developmental psychologist, Dr. Howard Gardener at Harvard. These learning styles namely interpersonal, intrapersonal, kinesthetic, visual and auditory learning enabled them to remember, memorize and understand new complex concepts and terminologies in various situations.
Students with opposite personality type preferences e.g. introvert vs extrovert were grouped through which they learned team management and efficient use of concomitant learning materials using countering strengths of opposite personality trait. Student exposure increased through participation in a guest seminar given by a guest from Harvard University. Learning materials were broken down in different categories as card games, mobile apps, team building activities, and creative writing workshops.
Cutting edge tools are used e.g. Kahoot is used for student feedback and quizzes from the course content. Students were then given the chance to participate in parliamentary debates to showcase their learning and they were able to apply the learning into action. Students also blogged the course progression with their analysis of the discussions throughout the course. At the end of the course, an anonymous survey was conducted and the satisfaction rating was above 90%.
Students had the highest attendance in the class and reported immense improvement in their understanding of their personality and self-confidence. Student’s ratings also showed high ratings towards their satisfaction with the level of support and feeling of adequacy throughout the course.
The concept of student counseling and psychological assessment is still rare in higher educational facilities in developing countries. In the 21st century despite all its medical advances, the global burden of mental disease is 13%. The costs associated with it are 2.15 trillion USD per year. It is estimated that by the year 2030 depression will lead to the global burden of disease around the world. Even in countries at the cusp of mental health research, the treatment reception for mental health disorders is up to 15.3% for example in the US.
The jury is still out on the reasons for soaring numbers of reported mental disorders but research has pointed out that modernization itself has offset the footing people had in older ways which consequently creates the cognitive dissonance between reality and ideation.
The decline in the average number of members in a family, nuclear family system, changing social values, lack of religious orientation engendered by post-enlightenment rationalization are some of the social phenomena that are believed to have contributed to the epidemic.
These tests are not only an early identification method but also a prevention strategy. For example, for corporate executive-level positions, psychometric assessments and clinical screening are standard practice now along with background check. MMPI is used to spot any extreme risk factors that might come up during the administration of the test. Companies like, Google, Microsoft and the majority of fortune 500 hundred companies have some kind of personality assessment tool to make sure recruitment costs are justified and employee retention is at its peak.
Future workforce of these companies depends on brilliant young minds currently in academics and it is of pivotal importance that we have some way to help these promising individuals climb up Maslow’s hierarchy to a level of self-awareness where they can understand their purpose and align it with their talents. Not only is this going to yield passionate and insightful employees but also well-functioning mentally healthy individuals and subsequently families. Research is unequivocal and crystal clear on that and it’s about time that some form of psychometric assessment should be part of our educational institutes. If you don’t want them to end up with a shrink, start with a shrink.