Assessing Complexity: Integrating Being and Becoming

By Pryor, Robert G. L. | Journal of Employment Counseling, September 2007 | Go to article overview

Assessing Complexity: Integrating Being and Becoming


Pryor, Robert G. L., Journal of Employment Counseling


Holistic perspectives in career development have focused attention on complexity as important for counselors using assessment techniques. Increased emphasis on subjectivity has resulted in greater focus on qualitative measures versus traditional psychometric tests. These developments reflect issues such as the idiographic-nomothetic distinction and individuals' being and becoming. The author uses a card sort technique to show how some of these issues might be addressed in the context of seeking a more comprehensive assessment for addressing the challenge of assessing complexity. Specifically, complexity is assessed in terms of traits, unique patterns of preferences, personal constructs, idiosyncratic likes, and the potential for change.

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The importance of holistic thinking in career development counseling has given rise to a new focus on the challenges of dealing with complexity (Bloch, 2005; Bright & Pryor, 2005; Leong, 1996). Nowhere are these challenges being confronted (Savickas, 1992; Subich, 1996) more than they are in the domain of assessment. One consequence of this is a resurgent interest in qualitative assessment techniques in response to advances in constructivist theory (Neimeyer & Neimeyer, 2002; Peary, 1996). Thus, for example, constructivism emphasizes the idiosyncratic and unique in human thinking and experience as well as the capacity of individuals to actively create and change themselves and their circumstances. Such characteristics have usually been difficult to incorporate into traditional psychometric assessment with its emphasis on populations rather than individuals, reliability rather than change, and validity criteria rather than creative option generation. In addressing this issue, Savickas (2005) outlined the dominant characteristics of objective (quantitative) and subjective (qualitative) perspectives in the following terms:

* Propositional compared with narrative

* Trait theory compared with life pattern theory

* Fit into job compared withfit into life

* Actuarial methods compared with thematic methods

* Scores compared with stories

* Publicly stable compared with privately unstable

* Diagnose compared with create

* Guidance compared with counseling

Although a few writers (e.g., Goldman, 1992) have argued for the advantages of one approach over another, it is probably reasonable to conclude that most who have addressed these assessment issues have adopted a both/and rather than an either/or approach (Chartrand & Walsh, 2001; McMahon, Patton, & Watson, 2003).

Such recent developments in attempts to deal with the challenges of assessing complexity in career development hearken back to the idiographic-nomothetic issue (Allport, 1937), which highlighted the difference in emphasis of exploring uniquely individual characteristics (idiographic perspective) and assessing common dimensions of difference such as intelligence and vocational interests (nomothetic perspective). The importance of assessing complexity can be seen in the call to incorporate both "being" (structure) and "becoming" (change) into science in general (Prigogine, 1997). The recent application of chaos theory to career development by Pryor and Bright (2003a, 2003b) appropriates this call and draws attention to complexity in terms of the interplay of pattern (order) and unpredictability (unplanned change).

AIMS

In this article, I endeavor to illustrate one approach to the assessment of complexity. Through the use of a card sort technique, I hope to demonstrate how (a) quantitative and qualitative assessment approaches can be used to inform one another, (b) nomothetic and idiographic assessment perspectives used together can provide a more comprehensive understanding of the person, and (c) structure and change might be integrated in the assessment process.

ASSESSING COMPLEXITY USING A CARD SORT TECHNIQUE

Description of the Card Sort and Nomothetic Usage

The Congruence Interest Sort (CIS; Pryor, 1995) is a 64-item card sort assessing the eight dimensions of Roe's (1956, 1972) classification of vocational interests. …

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