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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


Situational Judgment Tests: Theory, Measurement, and Application edited by Jeff Weekley and Robert Ployhart (SIOP Organizational Frontiers Series: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates) advances the science and practice of SJTs by promoting a theoretical framework, providing an understanding of best practices, and establishing a research agenda for years to come. Currently, there is no other source that provides such a comprehensive treatment of situational judgment testing. Key features of this book include:

  • chapters rich with theoretical insights and future research possibilities;

  • numerous implications for improving the practical applications of SJTs, which include not only SJT development and scoring, but also operational issues affecting test administration and interpretation;

  • comprehensive summaries of published and unpublished SJT research; and

  • chapters that address topics that are timely and current, such as issues involving the international application of SJTs and technological considerations.

This text is relevant for academics, practitioners, and students of human resource management, organizational behavior, management, and industrial/organizational psychology. This book is new in SIOP's Organizational Frontiers Series, publications of the Society of Industrial and Organizational Psychology.

In the research on situational judgment testing (SJTs) we frequently encountered situations where there were no clear answers and little relevant theory. We struggled with these issues, developing some solutions of our own and relying on the expertise of many colleagues for others. It became apparent that much useful knowledge existed solely in the minds and experiences of our colleagues. At the same time, the empirical database on SJTs continued to develop at an increasing rate. Given the increased interest in SJTs, we felt a book that integrated and summarized cutting-edge SIT research and practice would be extremely useful.

This volume advances the science and practice of SJTs by promoting a theoretical framework, providing an understanding of best practices, and establishing a research agenda for years to come. Currently, there is no other source that provides such comprehensive treatment of SIT. There are several features of this book that make it relevant for academics, practitioners, and students of human resource, organizational behavior, management, and industrial/organizational psychology. First, the chapters are rich with theoretical insights and future research possibilities. Second, the chapters provide numerous implications for improving the practical application of SJTs. This includes not only SJT development and scoring, but also operational issues affecting test administration and interpretation. Third, the chapters are comprehensive summaries of published and unpublished SJT research. Finally, the chapters address topics that are timely and current, such as issues involving the international application of SJTs and technological considerations.

This volume reflects new thinking and research in the area of situational judgment testing (SJT). It identifies a large body of research, theory, and practical information about understanding and using SJT. The volume also enlarges our perspective on this type of testing and integrates a large body of information into the SJT framework.

There are several other strengths of this volume. Past work on SJT has largely been atheoretical. This volume changes that with several chapters focusing on basic processes such as perception, judgment and decision making, practical intelligence, and tacit knowledge, with special attention to the psychological processes examinees' use in such tests. The volume also includes a major section on methodological issues, with considerable emphasis on future methodological needs. It also contains a major section on the applications of such testing.

Another major strength of the volume is how it identifies research needs. These are noted in many of the chapters and the concluding chapter discusses specific improvements that future research could make. These include work on the construct validity and how to structure SJTs to target particular constructs; the need for more experimental research in addition to the current correlational research; the need for more theory; and work to expand SJTs to new organizational settings.

The editors and chapter authors have clearly communicated the nature, application, and implications of the theory and research described in this book. The remainder of this volume is divided into three sections, plus a summary chapter. The first section focuses on theory and SJT. As noted, to date research on SJTs has proceeded in a largely atheoretical fashion. The contributors of these chapters bring some much needed theoretical perspective to SJT. Yet each also brings a unique and different perspective, giving the reader a broad theoretical orientation that offers many directions for research. Gessner and Kilmoski (chap. 2) examine various theories regarding how people perceive situations, the factors that impact these perceptions, and the implications therein for situational judgment. In chapter 3, Brooks and Highhouse consider the literature on judgment and decision making as applied to SJTs, providing another perspective for research on situational judgment tests. In chapter 4, Motowidlo, Brooks, and Jackson integrate a diverse body of literature in the development of a theoretical framework for SJTs, and in doing so provide a much needed rationale for what SJTs measure and why they work. Ployhart (chap. 5), drawing on relevant theories in cognitive psychology and psychometrics, presents a model of the psychological processes examinee's engage in when responding to situational judgment items. Finally, Stemler and Sternberg (chap. 6) review previous theory and research on practical intelligence or tacit knowledge and illustrate the application of their work on practical intelligence in the development of an SJT.

The second section focuses on methodological issues in SJT development and research. Schmitt and Chan (chap. 7) consider evidence for the construct validity of SJTs and offer their insights into what SJTs measure. Weekley, Ployhart, and Holtz (chap. 8) review research on the wide variety of approaches used to develop SJTs, including variations in content determination, response option development, response instructions, determining response option effectiveness, and scoring. McDaniel, Hartman, Nguyen, and Grubb (chap. 9) summarize the empirical research to date on validity of situational judgment tests and consider how the framing of SJT questions impact the constructs captured. Hooper, Cullen, and Sackett (chap. 10) examine operational threats to the use of situational judgment tests, including faking, coaching, and, retesting. Finally chapter 11, Bauer and Truxillo, in drawing on the procedural justice literature, consider applicant reactions to SJTs and the implications of SJT perceptions for issues such as face validity and applicant motivation.

The third section considers four important issues relative to the application of SJTs. Olson-Buchanan and Drasgow (chap. 12) consider the use of alternative media in the presentation of SJTs, the challenges associated with the use of multimedia SJTs, and the implications of varying degrees of fidelity for measurement properties and applicant reactions. Lievens (chap. 13) reviews SJT research from other countries and, within the context of cross-cultural theory, explores the limits of the generalizability of SJT validity across cultural boundaries. Fritzsche, Stagl, Salas, and Burke (chap. 14) explore the underresearched issue of SJTs and training, including the use of SJTs in needs assessment, scenario-based training delivery, and training evaluation. Finally, Mumford, Campion, and Morgeson (chap. 15) consider their research on SJTs as predictors of team staffing and contextual performance.

In the concluding chapter, there is an (chap. 16) attempt to summarize the major themes of the preceding chapters. By integrating the directions for research offered by the contributing authors, the hope is to provide future researchers with a general road map for the advancement of our understanding of SJT.

The Nature of Intellectual Styles by Li-Fang Zhang, Robert J. Sternberg (Educational Psychology: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates) provides an up-to-date, panoramic picture of the field of intellectual styles through describing, analyzing, and integrating the major theoretical and research works on the topic. Readers will gain a broad understanding of the field—its nature, origins, historical development, theories, research, and applications, as well as the interrelationships among major theoretical constructs proposed by different theorists in the past few decades. In particular, three major controversial issues in the field are addressed by both empirical findings and literature review: styles as better versus worse, or as equal in merit; styles as traits versus styles as states; and styles as different constructs versus styles as similar constructs with different style labels.

Educators will find ideas on how to improve their teaching and assessment of student performance. Student development specialists will be interested in the book because intellectual styles, as evidenced by recent studies, play a critical role in many aspects of student development including cognitive, affective, psychosocial, and career development. Psychologists will gain an understanding of an important facet of the field at the interface between cognition and personality. Managers in business will find the book relevant to such issues as effective supervision and staff training and development. The Nature of Intellectual Styles is intended for anyone—particularly researchers and students in the fields of education, psychology, and business management—who is interested in understanding intellectual styles and their effects on daily life.

Excerpt: Some people prefer to think carefully and reflectively before they act. Oth­ers prefer to act quickly and on impulse. We sometimes refer to the latter kinds of people as ones who "shoot from the hip," or "shoot first, and ask questions later." These two types of people can be referred to as differing in their preferred intellectual styles, that is, in how they choose to use their in­tellects in solving problems and making decisions. Intellectual styles occur at the interface between personality and cognition.

Research results accumulated over the past half century indicate that in­tellectual styles play an important role in many aspects of our lives. Some of these aspects are learning performance, job performance, interpersonal in­teraction, communication, sense of morality, social behaviors, and psycho­logical well-being. The differences made by intellectual styles have been documented in thousands of research articles and books. Under such a cir­cumstance, one might naturally ask: "Why, if there is so much already writ­ten on intellectual styles, do we need another book on the nature of styles?" In the present chapter, we answer this question. Then, we define the con­cept of intellectual styles. Next, we put forward the major arguments of this book. The final part of this chapter lays out the structure of the book.

Until recently, the field of intellectual styles was characterized by the belief that different styles are supposed to be neither better nor worse than each other, but simply different from each other. In a similar vein, the field of styles has also generated two other controversial issues: styles as traits versus states, and diverse styles as different constructs versus similar constructs merely with different labels. One of the reasons styles research declined in the late 1970s and early 1980s is that many viewed the research as not living up to its promise. For the last two decades, however, scholars have ex­pressed a renewed interest in styles. This recent renewal of interest in styles work has resulted in both better integrated models of styles and research studies that are more carefully designed and more theoretically based. However, these works still have not been understood within a unified scien­tific framework. Moreover, some of the major controversial issues in the study of styles (such as the three just mentioned) have yet to be systemati­cally addressed.

Understanding these controversial issues within a unified scientific framework is important because their lack of resolution not only has inhib­ited the advancement of the field, but also has made practitioners, includ­ing educational and occupational psychologists as well as classroom teach­ers, hesitant to use the concept of styles in their work. For example, if styles represent fixed traits, any attempt to teach or develop particular styles would probably be in vain. If they are fluid, then attempts at teaching and development would make good sense. Thus, addressing these issues has the potential for both advancing the field of styles and providing clear guide­lines for practitioners regarding how styles can be understood and used.

After a long period of research and theorization on styles, is there enough empirical evidence for us take an empirically defensible stand on each of the three aforementioned controversial issues over intellectual styles? Is there any way we can organize existing data on styles under a com­mon scientific framework?

In this book, intellectual style is used as a general term that encompasses the meanings of all "style" constructs postulated in the literature, such as cogni­tive style, conceptual tempo, decision-making and problem-solving style, learning style, mind style, perceptual style, and thinking style. An intellec­tual style refers to one's preferred way of processing information and deal­ing with tasks. To varying degrees, an intellectual style is cognitive, affective, physiological, psychological, and sociological. It is cognitive because what­ever styles one uses to process information, one must be engaged in some kind of cognitive process. It is affective because one's way of processing in­formation and of dealing with a task (i.e., employing an intellectual style) is partially determined by how one feels about the task. If one is genuinely in­terested in the task at hand (assuming that the task does require one to be creative and to have a deep understanding), one may, for example, use a style that is creativity-generating. On the contrary, if one feels indifferent about the task at hand, one may simply use a style that is more conservative. It is physiological because the use of a style is partially influenced by the way our senses (e.g., vision, hearing, and touch) take in the information pro­vided to us. It is psychological because the use of a particular style is par­tially contingent upon how one's personality interacts with one's environ­ment. Finally, it is sociological because the use of a style is affected by the preferences for various ways of thinking of the society in which one lives.

This book presents a panoramic and updated picture of the field of intellec­tual styles. In particular, it addresses the aforementioned three major con­troversial issues in the field through both presenting our own empirical findings and portraying, analyzing, and integrating major theoretical and research works in the existing styles literature. After completing the book, readers will have a good understanding of the field of styles: its origins, his­torical development, theories, research, and applications, as well as the in­terrelationships among major theoretical constructs proposed by different theorists throughout the past few decades. In particular, this book will pro­vide preliminary keys to unlocking the riddles relating to the nature of in­tellectual styles.

A careful examination of the nature of the various intellectual styles indi­cates that any style may have one or more of the following concepts as part of its underpinnings. These are one's preference for high degrees of struc­ture versus low degrees of structure, for cognitive simplicity versus cognitive complexity, for conformity versus nonconformity, for authority versus au­tonomy, and for group versus individual work. Although these dimensions of preference are stated in bipolar terms, the pair of descriptors for each di­mension can be viewed as two ends of a continuum.

In this book, we make three major arguments, each addressing one of the three controversial issues regarding styles.

Are some intellectual styles better or worse than are others? In the long his­tory of styles research, scholars seem to have deliberately avoided the com­parison of styles regarding their relative superiority or inferiority. However, in the case of many style constructs, some styles do seem to be more adap­tive than others. For example, field independence—a propensity for being able to orient oneself in space without regard to one's particular surround­ings—is generally more adaptive than field dependence—the propensity to orient oneself in accord with the surroundings in which one finds oneself. In case of poor visibility, a pilot who is field independent, for example, is at a big advantage over one who is field dependent. Similarly, a diver under water who is field independent is less likely to drown than one who is field dependent. Reflectivity, a tendency to ponder what to do before doing it, is generally more adaptive than blind impulsiveness. In general, some styles are more adaptive than others. That is, such styles are value-laden. At the same time, other styles seem truly to be neither better nor worse. For exam­ple, being internal or external—more introverted or extraverted in one's work orientation—can be seen as equally advantageous, although their use­fulness can depend on the situation in which one finds oneself. The inter­nal person may be at an advantage when working alone, the external per­son, when working in a group. That is, such styles are value-differentiated.

Through empirical evidence and theoretical conceptualization, we ar­gue throughout this book that styles are largely value-laden and that they are at times value-differentiated. We classify all intellectual styles into three types. Type I styles are perceived as being more positive because they generally have more adaptive value. Type II styles are considered more negative because they generally carry less adaptive value. Therefore, Type I and Type II styles are considered value-laden. Type III styles are value-differentiated (i.e., they can be either positive or negative) because they may possess the characteristics of either Type I styles or Type II styles, depending on the requirements of a task or of a situation (see chapters 3 through 8 for details).

One may ask: "Whose values are you talking about?" In the context of this book, we are talking about the values of those in democratic societies, or, at least, societies that value innovation.

When Yan Zi came to the state of Chu as an envoy from the state of Qi, he was received by the King of Chu at a banquet. While they were drinking, two soldiers brought a tied-up criminal to the King in the hall. "Who's the man you've tied up?", asked the King of Chu. "He's a thief from the state of Qi," replied the soldier. The king turned to Yan Zi and said, "Why, he's your countryman. Men in the state of Qi must all be fond of stealing!" Seeing that the King of Chu was being sarcastic, Yan Zi stood to his feet and said, "I heard that when oranges are planted south of the river, they bear sweet or­anges. When they are planted north of the river, they turn into trifoliate or­ange trees. Although their leaves are similar, their fruit is quite different. Why is that so? Because water and soil on either side of the river is different. People in the state of Qi never steal. But when they come to the state of Chu, they learn to steal. May I ask, is this not the water and soil of the state of Chu that have turned people into thieves?" (Translation by Zhao & Tang, in Si-Tu, 1990, p. 174).

The above is a story from Anecdotes of Yan Zi, recorded and compiled by writers of the Warring States Period (475-221 B.C.) in ancient China. The story illustrates the powerful impact of environment on human behaviors. Are intellectual styles malleable? Throughout this book, we present re­search evidence indicating that styles are malleable. They represent states, although they can be relatively stable over a period of time.

In the literature, many style labels have been used. When reviewing the then-existing work on styles, Hayes and Allinson (1994) noted there were 22 different dimensions of cognitive style alone. Five years later, Armstrong (1999) identified 54 style dimensions, which he classified under the more encompassing term cognitive style. Some of these examples are field-depen­dent/independent (Witkin, 1954), scanning–focusing (Schlesinger, 1954), constricted–flexible control (Klein, 1954) , intuitive–thinking (Myers, 1962), reflective–impulsive (Kagan, 1965a), splitters–lumpers (Cohen, 1967), serialist–holist (Pask & Scott, 1972), and activist–reflector (Kolb, 1976). Similarly, many style labels have been placed under the umbrella term learning style. Some of these examples include instructional preference (Friedman & Stritter, 1976), learning interest (Riechmann & Grasha, 1974), learning preference (Rezler & Rezmovic, 1974), study process (Biggs, 1979), and approach to study (Entwistle & Ramsden, 1983). Each style label has at least one corresponding assessment tool.

Are there any relationships among these style labels, such as cognitive styles and learning styles? If one prefers to use a deep approach to study in a learning context, would one also tend to use an innovative decision-making style at work? Such questions have been puzzling not only to scholars in the field, but also to laypeople who are interested in the notion of styles.

There are two levels at which we can address such questions. One is at the conceptual level, and the other, the empirical level.

Conceptually, the relationships among different style labels can be deci­phered by examining three types of scholarly efforts: defining styles, integrating existing style labels, and proposing more comprehensive style terms. Without going into the specific definition for each of the individual style labels, we did a quick survey of how cognitive style and learning style have been defined. Not surprisingly, we found that, in terms of definitions, cognitive styles and learning styles share much in common. Consider some of the definitions for each in turn:

The definitions of cognitive styles are based on the notion that people are inclined to characteristic ways of processing information in various con­texts. For example, Anastasi (1988) defined cognitive styles as broad, sys­tematic features affecting an individual's responses to a variety of circum­stances. Messick (1984) believed that cognitive styles are characteristic modes of perception, memory, thought, and judgment that reflect an indi­vidual's information-processing regularities.

By the same token, the definitions of learning styles are also dominated by the idea that people have predilections for attending information in cer­tain ways, but not in others. The major noticeable difference between the ways cognitive styles are defined and the ways learning styles are defined is that the former concern multiple contexts whereas the latter pertain to learning situations only. For instance, Gregorc (1979) defined learning styles as the distinctive behaviors that indicate how a person learns from and adapts to his or her environment. Kalsbeek (1989) noted that learning styles can be viewed as one's preferred approach to information processing, idea formation, and decision making.

It is worth noting, however, that some scholars do not seem to consider it necessary to distinguish the two frequently used style terms: cognitive style and learning style. As pointed out by Campbell (1991), cognitive style and learning style have often been used synonymously. For example, Tennant (1997) stated: " 'Cognitive style,' `learning style,' and 'conceptual style' are related terms which refer to an individual's characteristic and consistent ap­proach to organizing and processing information" (p. 80). Indeed, some scholars do use the two terms interchangeably. For instance, Curry (1983) viewed her model as one of learning styles despite the fact that several style dimensions included in her model are cognition-centered. On the other hand, Miller (1987) referred to his model as one of cognitive style even though several style dimensions in his model concern learning activities. As a final example, although Kolb's (1976) work is normally discussed within the framework of learning styles, Hayes and Allinson (1994) classified Kolb's style dimensions as cognitive styles.

Efforts to clarify the relationships go beyond defining cognitive and learn­ing styles. A number of scholars have attempted, and succeeded in varying degrees, in bringing order to the existing style labels. Sternberg (1997, seealso Grigorenko & Sternberg, 1995) conceptualized the existing style labels into three approaches to the study of styles: cognition-centered, personality-centered, and activity-centered (see chapter 6 for details). Believing that many of the style labels are merely different conceptions of superordinate di­mensions, several authors also have conceptually integrated these style labels (e.g., Curry, 1983; Miller, 1987; Riding & Cheema, 1991).

Sternberg (1988, 1997) proposed the notion of thinking styles. For two reasons, thinking styles are perceived to be more general than are cognitive or learning styles. First, they can be applied to both academic and non­academic settings. Second, thinking styles cover styles from all three tradi­tions of the study of styles (see chapter 7 for details). Meanwhile, Sternberg (2001a) noted that although the three kinds of styles are often viewed as overlapping, they have been conceptualized in different ways. He offered his views of how cognitive, learning, and thinking styles might be used in processing the same information. Cognitive styles might be used to charac­terize ways of cognizing the information. Learning styles might be used to characterize how one prefers to learn about the information. Thinking styles might be used to characterize how one prefers to think about the in­formation as one is learning it or after one already knows it.

So much for the endeavors in clarifying the relationships among styles. By now, one could easily come to the conclusion that, regardless of the kind of efforts that have been made and no matter how differently the existing styles have been defined, there is one essential common thread that links all different styles. That is, styles are not abilities; they are people's preferred ways of using the abilities that they have. Thus, inevitably, different styles overlap with one another, at least in theory. Yet, different style dimensions have different foci (e.g., personality-oriented, cognition-oriented, activity-oriented), which necessarily leads to our conclusion that each style also has its own unique features.

Empirically, the various styles overlap, despite the fact that each of the style labels (and its corresponding measures) was constructed independ­ently. However, the shared variance between any of the two style dimen­sions under investigation ranges from 20% to 60%, on average. That is to say, a substantial part of the variance in the data is left to be explained by the unique characteristics of each of the two individual style dimensions concerned and by other possible factors (see chapters 3 through 8).

This introductory chapter is intended to set the stage for an examination of the nature of intellectual styles. It provides an introduction to the key con­cepts and the major arguments of the book. The remainder of this book is

composed of four parts. The first part (chapter 2) provides a general pic­ture of the field of intellectual styles—its past and its present; it ends with reiterating the call for further understanding the nature of intellectual styles. Part II (chapters 3, 4, and 5) addresses the three aforementioned controversial issues regarding intellectual styles by reviewing and critically analyzing existing empirical studies based on previous individual style mod­els. Chapter 3 concerns research on students. Chapter 4 pertains to re­search on teachers. Chapter 5 focuses on research in workplaces. Part III (chapters 6 and 7) explores the nature of styles through appraising style works that have aimed at conceptually integrating previous theoretical models and their empirical research. Chapter 6 discusses research based on four existing integrative models of intellectual styles in the field. Chapter 7 delineates research based on the latest individual theoretical model of styles: the theory of mental self-government. Part IV (chapters 8 and 9) fur­ther examines the nature of intellectual styles by re-conceptualizing works documented in the literature and making concluding remarks about the re­search and application of styles. Based on 10 individual classical style mod­els and their research as well as on research evidence presented in the ear­lier chapters, chapter 8 proposes a new integrative model of intellectual styles that systematically addresses the three controversial issues over styles. Chapter 9 provides some concluding thoughts along with practical ways of using our knowledge about intellectual styles in a variety of contexts.

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