Recommended Books
Search For Books
This form does not yet contain any fields.
    Tuesday
    Mar042014

    Personal Construct Theory and Career Development  

    Personal Construct Theory and Career Development Planning

    By Peter Beven

    Personal Construct Theory has the potential to assist with the following aims:

    • To help with self assessment - to reach an indication of how individuals discriminate between work roles, for example.

     

    • To provide a basis for further career development planning.

     

    • To check on the usefulness of a particular development. These exercises could be completed before and after an event (e.g.  Change of work role) to see how far perceptions have changed.

     

     What is personal construct theory?

     

    Personal Construct Theory originates from the work of George Kelly. Kelly, a psychologist was interested in finding ways to investigate how people make sense of the world around them.

     

    The basis of this theory is that we are all different with differing construct systems.  In other words we all construct and interpret events differently. If you accept this, then it follows that it is illogical to make assumptions about the way in which someone arrives at a preference for one thing rather than another without finding out why by asking them.

     

    Kelly based Personal Construct Theory upon a number of key ideas:

     

    • Constructive Alternativism appears at first sight an imposing, not to say abstruse term, although essentially it is not a difficult concept. The central notion underlying the theory is that we all construct our own picture of the world around us and how we relate with the world.  Perhaps there is nothing startling in this observation.  We are all familiar with the situation where one event is viewed in different ways by two observers. A newspaper report of a football match may differ significantly from your own experience of having attended the game.  "A solid defensive display" in the Newcastle Evening Chronicle might be reported as a "Series of desperate clearances" in a London newspaper.  Similarly, one person's "terrorist" is another person's "freedom fighter". The assumption behind constructive alternativism is that we are all capable of changing our interpretation of events; we can interpret experience in a different way. Personal Construct Theory becomes therefore a means of exploring and questioning ideas, beliefs and values in a professional development review setting.

     

    • Constructs are hierarchical: Some constructs are more deep seated, more “central” to an individual’s identity and therefore possibly more resistant to change. Some constructs are subordinate to others.

     

     

    • Every Person as scientist: Kelly thought that everybody is engaged in trying to make sense out of their experience, and everyone tries to use their experience in order to predict what might happen when faced with a new situation.  When the experience confirms the anticipation the person enjoys "validation" of her/his constructions.  When the experience does NOT confirm expectations, the constructions are invalidated and the individual may re-assess the situation.  However we might note that we are at best faulty scientists, sometimes sticking to our inaccurate picture of the world despite evidence to the contrary.

     

    • Constructs are bi - polar: When we make a distinction between things by affirming one thing we are simultaneously implying it is not like something else, although perhaps this implicit contrast may not always naturally emerge in professional development planning.

     

    Implications for a Career Development activity: Using the Repertory Grid

     

    Personal construct theory provides a tool for exploring an individual's constructs, the repertory grid.

     

    The repertory grid is simply a skeletal structure which enables you to focus on certain key aspects of the participant’s ideas. The grid has three main components:

     

    a) The “elements" that define the areas of investigation. In the example below it is job titles, but it could just as easily be activities within a job, important people in a life etc. etc. It is really important that the elements come from the participant. In other words, they need to be from the participant’s “frame of reference”

     

    b)  The “constructs” which are the way the individual differentiates between the elements. Typically the constructs are generated by taking the elements in groups of three and asking: How does one element differ from the other two?

    Important constructs below, generated by comparing the elements are discipline: providing support, educating others opposed to being self seeking and so on.

     

    c)  Some sort of “linking mechanism” - a score/rating/ranking scale which shows how each element is judged on each construct. In this example each element was rated by the participant on a five point scale according to whether the constructs were an important component of the job. The score 5 = like the left pole of the construct, through to the score 1= like the right hand pole of the construct.

     

     

     The following is an example of a partially completed grid where the participant is contrasting important parts of their current portfolio of work:

     

    Constructs

     

    Freelance Writing

    Literacy Support in Adult education

    Web site

    Authoring

    Teaching

    Proof reading for technical magazine

    Ideal   Job

    Constructs

    Provide Discipline

    5

    1

    1

    1

    4

     

    Provide support

    Educate Other People

    1

    5

    3

    5

    1

     

    Self Seeking

    Unsociable Hours

    5

    4

    1

    1

    1

     

    Normal Hours

    Advisory Work

    1

    5

    3

    4

    2

     

    Direct Intervention

    Service to People

    1

    5

    1

    5

    1

     

    Serving Business

     

    The next step might be to encourage the participant to complete the “Ideal Job” column based upon their own constructs – the things that are important to them derived from current activities.

     

    The repertory grid can therefore be a useful starting point for examining what are the important ideas and constructs that drive the individual in terms of their professional development and pose the question- does the current portfolio of activities satisfy what is important to them, and if not, how might further development meet future needs. There are some excellent detailed examples of using repertory grids in the web sites listed below.

     

    Key Text:

    Fransella, F. (2005) The Essential Practitioners Handbook of Personal Construct Psychology Wiley

     

    Useful web sites:

    http://www.enquirewithin.co.nz/

    This is an excellent site that demonstrates examples of using the repertory grid as well as useful information on the theoretical ideas behind the work.

    http://www.learningandteaching.info/learning/personal.htm

    This site also gives some variations of repertory grid work and how to use them