I have been a fan of Jane Bozarth, PhD since she published her eLearning on a Shoestring in 2010.  Her conference sessions have been entertaining to attend due to her critical but humorous attitude towards the status quo.  Perhaps this attitude is due to her having spent nearly 15 years in state government or perhaps she is a true academic agreeing only with evidence-based arguments.  Nevertheless, Jane comes to her latest research project for the eLearning Guild ready to slay most of the dragons in the world of personality inventories. Kudos to her for selecting this topic for a research study paper.

Dr. Jane Bozarth

Dr. Bozarth has done an excellent review of literature, but I disagree with her overall tone, and I sensed her bias (albeit supported by research citations) against these potentially useful tools. My anecdotal evidence shows these types of surveys can be put to good use despite being flawed.  They can be used as a decision support tool when used alongside skill testing and a documented hiring process.

Personality inventories are also relevant for those of us engaged in online learning since surveys and branching programs with artificial intelligence are impacting electronic learning programs from self-assessments to exams.  Today, AI is incorporated into many online surveys meant to be descriptive and sometimes even as a prescriptive tool for practitioners.   Like any tool or learning exercise, the effectiveness and validity of the survey can be correlated with how the instructor or employer uses them.  Does taking surveys lead to more critical thinking and analysis and self-reflection? If so, the survey is serving a purpose.

Dr. Bozarth cites studies which prove the lack of validity and reliability in the Myers Briggs survey (it breaks down people into 16 types or combinations of types).  Perhaps too many companies or state employers have over used Myers Briggs?  She even makes the point Myers Briggs generates 20 million dollars annually.  Where there is a lot of money, there is corruption?

My 25-year experience with a home-grown system from Madison, Wisconsin called www.Xyte.com has me feeling partial to profiling for the purpose of enhancing the type of questions asked during an interview.  It has also informed as to how to recommend professional development and generic approaches to managing individuals of certain types.  Xyte also provides a learning characteristic grid (below) which supplements profiles with a guide towards understanding how the profile may like to learn.

However flawed this type of tool might be, I have found that continued use over twenty years has enhanced its usability (at least for me).

In an interview situation, I insist that Skill tests are also given to ensure competence for the position being applied for.  With resumes routinely fluffed up (next research project?) and a shortage of qualified candidates available, tools like these can help narrow applicants (is this evil or illegal?).  Survey tools also help eliminate interviewing by “gut feeling”. If you can eliminate personal bias and favoritism the tool has served its purpose.

In short, what bothered me most was Dr. Bozarth’s research is skewed towards the negative end of the spectrum and fails to make the point of the potential value of tools that are supported by artificial intelligence (let’s give surveys a chance).

Had she started with the Big Five survey (the one she found supporting evidence for) the paper could have been more uplifting for readers.  Had she looked for more recent tools that are more focused on the mind and thinking styles she might have found light at the end of this survey tool tunnel.

Perhaps her section titled “What’s the Harm?” says it all.  Here she is explicit that people like me who use a survey as one tool in the hiring process are doing harm.  ‘The hammer was used in a murder, does that make hammers a bad tool?”

Dr. Bozarth ends this section with a colleague’s recollection of how a fellow employee was in tears over survey results.  My personal view? Anyone who is emotionally disturbed by survey results has other issues and certainly has little understanding of the complex variables associated with each and every one of us.

Myers Briggs has been over promoted and used by evil people but let’s give this genre a chance since it will be the foundation for future online learning tools.