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Part 3: Psychological Assessment— Testing and assessment for missionary candidates

Brent LindquistWhen we think of testing in personnel selection and missions, the first thing that often comes to mind is the issue of particular kinds of tests. I want to take a step back and look at the bigger world of assessment as opposed to the smaller world of testing. Why? 

It is my opinion that if we look at assessment in its global sense, we will see that there are ways to understand and evaluate people outside of psychological instruments. This is important because most psychological instruments are restrictive, that is, only licensed or trained people can use them, and they fall under the definition of confidential medical information. They are also usually developed through research and are “normed” for specific populations. That also means they have varying degrees of reliability and validity when compared to a cross-cultural population. (For a separate discussion of cross-cultural psychological issues, see an article about recent ground-breaking research, “We Aren’t the World.”) While psychological instruments must be addressed ethically and legally, personnel people can also use other ways of obtaining information that will be useful for the missionary endeavor.

Real life assessments

How do you generally find out about another person, in terms of their strengths, their life experiences and their weaknesses? Much of that information you get without doing any kind of testing at all. You learn from face-to-face interactions, conversations, and a series of questions. Most likely you also give some information about yourself as well. We can get information about a missionary candidate by using tools like narratives and questionnaires. As you think of this process, it's important to know what kind of information you need. For example, it would be important to know how a person understands when he is under stress, when there is danger, when she is anxious, when he is frustrated, and when she is angry. How does the candidate read other people? You can get quite a bit of information about behavior and responses simply by asking questions about these topics. 

You also can find out information by asking people to complete a narrative, which describes a particular situation. "Most of us have had experiences in our lives so far, which are quite stressful. We didn't know how to fix things, or we were concerned that things seem to be getting worse and we weren't sure what to do next. Think of two separate situations in your own life and write about them below." This is an example of trying to get a narrative response in learning about how someone manages stress.

A critical part of any kind of narrative or questionnaire, particularly when doing face-to-face interviews, is to ask open-ended questions. That would be the topic of another post.

Formal assessments

There are three other categories that I want to reference in this post. Theresa referenced vocational assessments and general personality inventories. Also, we often don’t pay enough attention to the issue of spiritual assessments. That would be done by taking a spiritual history, which might include a number of narratives.

As you can see, there is a lot of information available out there, with no cost except for personnel time.  The best assessments measure multiple dimensions and arenas, from multiple viewpoints, and try to get at information and experience as close to the prospective work assignment as possible.Sounds like we have lots to talk about. First, why don’t you define the whole realm of testing a bit better for us? 

More articles in this series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5Part 6Part 7


Disclaimer: not official legal or psychological advice or opinion

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