StrengthsQuest Results — Commentary and Cautions

In class recently, we each were asked to take the StrengthsQuest inventory, which is a test designed to identify our top five “strengths.”  My top five, in order are:


Taking The Test.  I’m generally a good test-taker, but I think I might be a terrible personality test-taker.  What time I don’t spend over-analyzing each question to try to guess the algorithm, I spend over-thinking my responses.  Add in my difficulties resisting the temptation to answer repeat questions with the opposite response out of spite . . . and you don’t have a good recipe for personality test success.  Despite this, I found myself generally agreeing with the results of this one.  In this blog post, I discuss a few thoughts on my test results.

Being Competitive in an Anti-Elitist World.  Like my classmate Tanya, my #1 strength is competition.  I can definitely agree with this assessment — I am someone who likes to win.     This is not always seen as a strength.  At times, telling others my top “strength” is competition has felt more like a confession . . . I just hope no one reports me to the Handicapper General.

A few other quotes from my “signature themes” that I found to be particularly powerful:

Life is something of a minefield. Others can run through it recklessly if they so choose, but you take a different approach . . . You walk with care.
So . . . I guess not everyone sees life as a minefield?  Ha ha.  This quote is from the description of Deliberative.  I’ve always thought of myself as a bit paranoid, but I like this reframing of the attribute — paranoid walking down the street is one thing, but in a minefield?  Well, that just makes sense.

You enjoy the challenge of analyzing the symptoms, identifying what is wrong, and finding the solution . . . you enjoy bringing things back to life.
I really liked this one (from Restorative).  I’d never thought of my love of puzzles and problem solving in this way — as an enjoyment of bringing things back to life.

On Wednesday you might have a strong desire to make headway on a goal you’re passionate about.
Well, I did get a lot done on Wednesday, I guess . . . but this one was from my weekly horoscope, which brings me to my final point . . .

You are impatient with generalizations or “types” because you don’t want to obscure what is special and distinct about each person.
So, although I found this inventory to be a fun an interesting exercise, I have trouble taking the results of any personality test too seriously.  The general human tendency toward confirmation bias guarantees that we will find something to agree with in our test results.

I would love to hear more about your experience with StrengthsQuest or other personality tests — do you feel they accurately described you?

Assessment and Feedback

This week, our discussion centered around grading and assessment issues and the potential negative effects that grading and assessment can have on learning outcomes.

The Observer Effect.  The original purpose of grading was to quantify the quality of student learning.  However, grading suffers from something similar to the “observer effect” in physics — by measuring student learning, we unavoidably alter student learning — and the consensus seems to be that, in the current grading system, we are not changing it for the better.  Knowing this, one might argue that we stop assessing students altogether, and let their learning processes take their natural, unmeasured course.  However . . . why do we teach, if not to influence student learning?  Can we alter our methods of “measurement” to influence students in a positive way?  I believe that although grading might not be necessary in the classroom, feedback is essential to the learning process.

As one article on alternative assessment techniques describes it:

Feedback is information about how we did in light of some goal. We hit the tennis ball and see where it lands, we give a speech and hear (as well as witness) audience reaction as we speak, we design an experiment and check the results for error margin, we use the word processor and the spell checker underlines misspellings – feedback.

On a molecular level, the concept of feedback is essential to how the body regulates its functions.  In biochemistry, the term “feedback inhibition” is used to describe a situation in which the presence of a product inhibits the enzymes that create it.  This forms a self-regulating system — when you’ve produced enough insulin, you disable the process that makes insulin, and so on.


In the same way, learners can use feedback to regulate their learning process.  Therefore, while getting an A-F on a paper doesn’t tell the student much, hearing what the instructor (or a peer) got from the essay, what they though was done well / less well, or what feelings that writing evoked for the reader, the student can better see their own strengths and weaknesses.  Without feedback, students might feel like they aren’t being heard — like they are shouting into emptiness.


One example of a good use of feedback from my own student experience was in a class that required blogging.  Although our instructor did not grade our blogs, she responded to every student each week (it was a smaller class than this one).  This helped me see what another person was getting from my blog, and it helped me feel as if someone was “out there” on the other end.

What do you think?  I appreciate your feedback :).

Apparel and Authenticity

In class this week, we talked briefly about the importance of being “authentic” in the classroom.  I can understand some of the reasoning behind this — it makes sense to me that we are better teachers when we are playing to our strengths and not trying too hard to be something we are not.  However, I’m not sure it is always that simple — what if some aspects of our “authentic” personality are not appropriate for the classroom?  As an extreme example, I might naturally use inappropriate language, etc . . . or I might hate teaching and wish I was working on my research (hopefully not).  There are also more subtle pressures that might place limits on our authentic self . . .

Importance of Clothing.  One example we discussed in class, and which at least two students blogged about this week (here and here), is the type of clothing that we feel we “should” wear as an instructor.  One of these blogs discussed a study in which they found that GTAs that dressed more professionally encountered fewer behavioral problems from students.  I also wonder if choice of attire changes if you commit to an LC approach — in the article, they discuss the role of professional dress in maintaining student/teacher distance . . . but is this counterproductive to LC teaching?

Choice of clothing can also be an issue for some women in male-dominated fields.  Although some women report that they feel comfortable in skirts, others feel that they should play down their femininity to fit in.  According to one woman in science:

Anything feminine totally undermines your credibility

And consider one young female engineer’s story about her internship experience:

I tried wearing skirts all summer during my first internship and I got the “look” from the guys, I did not do it agian [sic] during my second internship. Instead I opted to look like them . . .

My point here is, for women in male-dominated fields, the decision to dress in a feminine way can have more than surface meaning.

What do you think?  Do you feel any particular pressures to act or dress a certain way in the classroom that you feel are unique to your gender/class/race/etc.?