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Friday, August 1, 2008

History of and Theory Behind Interest Inventories

This is the second article of a series of articles that will discuss the literature on the predominant career theories; history of and theory behind interest inventories; a discussion of the prominent interest inventories; the best use of interest inventories in the career development process; conceptual additions applicable to the study of interest inventories; literature that has focused on career indecision in adolescents; and educational interventions with additional focus placed on middle schools. All of these articles come from dissertations by Virginia Robinson Richards, EdD, and Stephen Randall Richards, EdD, both copyrighted 1998. These articles are presented as a quick refresher for professional guidance counselors, an introduction to these theories for the non-professional, and as a starting point for students of the many disciplines related to career development theory. The bibliographies are purposely missing. If you choose to copy our work (shame on you), you will at least have to go to the library to find the work and maybe touch the covers of these works. We appologize for the non-academic format, but in a blogging forum it is not possible to keep the work as originally presented.

Interest Inventory Developmental History
Parsons (1909), a pioneer in vocational guidance, and other counselors working with him in Boston around the turn of the century saw a strong need for individual analysis, individual occupational study, and counselors who were able to share with the counselee the interpretative activities necessary for successful vocational guidance, but the “lack of adequate techniques of individual analysis meant that most of that work relied on self-analysis” (Super, 1942, p. 2). Establishing the Vocations Bureau in Boston, Parsons chose to help adolescents to identify their capabilities and to choose jobs with reasonable success expectations. In order to accomplish this, Parsons suggested young people read biographies, observe workers on the job, and examine then-existing occupational descriptions.

Early researchers such as Alfred Binet, Arthur Otis, and Lewis Terman began studying individual differences in intelligence and developing tests to measure these differences prior to World War I (Super, 1983). Because of the need to classify large numbers of new entrants into the Army and to assign them to appropriate types of military jobs, the Army built on previous research and pioneered the use of intelligence testing and developed special aptitude tests. Those technologists, interested in providing tools for practitioners who were involved in these efforts, led the way in the development of instruments and methods and their use in personnel selection, training, and vocational counseling (Super, 1981).

Between 1935-40, the Minnesota Employment Stabilization Research Institute (MESRI), which developed psychological tests and methods for the assessment of the abilities and interests of the unemployed, studied the reeducation potential and problems faced by the unemployed and demonstrated methods of retraining and reeducation. Super (1983) finds the result of MESRI’s work to be the creation of what became known as occupational ability patterns (profiles) providing evidence of the feasibility of measuring many dimensions of individual differences and using these in vocational guidance and placement.

From the impetus of the Minnesota work came the development of the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT; U.S. Department of Labor, 1940) which presented data concerning the working conditions, worker requirements, and employment opportunities in various occupations. The DOT, General Aptitude Test Battery (Dvorak, 1947), and the Occupational Outlook Handbook, (U.S. Department of Labor, 1949) provided badly needed tools to counselors who had been “handicapped by many (previous) information voids” (Srebalus et al., 1982). Available to defense contractors and the military at the end of the Depression era, these new tools provided for classification and assignment of men and women gearing up for the World War II effort.

As World War II ended, other organizations sprang up, evolved, and gained momentum. The pre-World War II Cooperative Test Service became the Educational Testing Service with a focus on testing and providing guidance for college admissions (Super, 1983). With similar objectives of testing and guidance, the American College Testing program provided the launching pad for John Holland in the development of his theory of occupational choice as a process of matching one’s self with a job situation (Holland, 1973). Career counselors were now able to rely on tests and measurement devices and a library of occupational information with both references for clients and technical manuals for counselor use (Srebalus et al., 1982) in their counseling efforts.

The early 1950s brought new and important contributors to the field of career development and counseling, such as Eli Ginzberg (Ginzberg et al.,1951), Anne Roe (1956), and Donald Super (1957). These theoreticians began to look at psychological variables, such as the process of human development, and how these variables affect career choice. Whereas prior to this time, vocational decisions had been considered a one-time decision made in adolescence, now emphasis shifted to viewing a vocational decision in the context of the person’s developmental history. These radical new ideas broke drastically from the traditional trait and factor theory.

Major Interest Inventories
Although not all career theorists have developed specific instruments for use within their theories, most consider interest inventories an integral tool in the total picture of career development (Campbell & Hansen, 1981; Holland, 1979) to be “interpreted in the context of a wide variety of information about the test taker” (Gottfredson, 1986, p. 136). Watkins and Hackett (1995) stated the three interest inventories receiving the most attention and use by counseling psychologists today include the Strong-Campbell Interest Inventory (Hansen, 1991), the Self-Directed Search (Holland, 1985b), and the Kuder Occupational Interest Survey (Kuder & Zytowski, 1991).

Strong-Campbell Interest Inventory
Based on the assumption that certain interests are common to various groups, thereby distinguishing them from other groups, a graduate seminar in 1920 led by C. S. Yoakum at The Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh developed a 1000-item pool in an attempt to represent the entire domain of interests (Hansen, 1990). This research provided Edward K. Strong with ideas on the measurement of interests leading to his development of the Strong Vocational Interest Blank (SVIB) which placed “the measurement of interests for vocational counseling on technical and usage levels approaching those of the measurement of intelligence and aptitudes” (Darley & Hagenah, 1955). Strong systematically collected large amounts of test data showing that people in different occupations can be distinguished from each other by the simple procedure of asking them to check their likes and dislikes on a long checklist (Campbell & Hansen, 1981; Super, 1942).

Strong developed his inventory by means of a strictly empirical procedure, making few psychological assumptions and developing his scoring formulas on the basis of correlations of responses with criteria (Cronbach, 1949). Modifying the initial empirical methods of differentiating occupations one from another by using factor analysis, Strong then developed a method of identifying items within the interest tests to distinguish characteristics of specific occupations from those of people in general (Hansen, 1990). Responses to items that members of an occupation have in common constitute normative scales on which items are internally consistent or homogeneous only for the occupational group which they differentiate, thereby allowing counselors to report the degree to which the test-taker has interests similar to those of persons in a given occupation (Zytowski, 1973a).

Strong’s initial interest inventory consisted of a list of four hundred occupations, school subjects, hobbies, types of activities, personal characteristics, and similar items with the examinee indicating like, dislike, or indifference to each activity and whether or not the identified characteristic was possessed. Results were then compared to the responses of other persons known to have achieved success in a given occupation. Strong’s normative scales compared interests of an individual with those of persons in a particular occupation or, perhaps, a college major (Campbell & Hansen, 1981; Super, 1942). Campbell and Hansen (1981) maintained while the SVIB “cannot tell anyone where he will succeed . . . (it can) act as a mirror to reflect back the individual’s interests in a manner allowing comparison of his likes and dislikes to those in individuals in specified occupations . . . (where he is) likely to find job satisfaction” (p. 2).

Strong’s work was carried out at Stanford University, but shortly before his death arrangements were made to move to the University of Minnesota because of the presence of Dr. Kenneth Clark, Chairman of the Psychology Department, Dr. Ralph Berdie, Director of the Student Counseling Bureau, and Dr. David P. Campbell. Formally established as the Center of Interest Measurement Research, it was under the direction of Dr. Campbell who attempted to maintain a “strictly empirical orientation toward the SVII” (Campbell & Hansen, 1981, p. 365).

The SVIB, published in 1927, has been revised twice for men (1938 and 1966). The women’s SVIB, first published in 1933 and revised twice (1946 and 1969), is thought to be psychometrically superior to the men’s form because new techniques and analyses were tried with the men’s form, evaluated, and then modifications were made on the women’s revision. Renamed the Strong-Campbell Interest Inventory (SCII) in 1974, the choice was made to merge the female and male inventories, marking the beginning of an effort to provide equal career exploration opportunities for both women and men (Hansen, 1986). The SCII later underwent revision in 1981 and again in 1986 when SVIB items were selected to represent each of Holland’s personality types. The General Occupational Themes were broadened with the emphasis shifting from offering predominantly professionally oriented occupations to offering a mix of professional occupations along with nonprofessional or vocational-technical, thus, increasing the utility of the inventory to include those with a wider range of occupational and educational goals. Hackett and Watkins (1995) observed that the 1985 revision to renorm the occupational samples, to increase the number of occupational scales, and to decrease the gender restrictiveness has been successful.

Used widely with a varied clientele, including high school and college students, cross-cultural populations, and minorities, in a variety of settings, including educational, business, and rehabilitation, the SCII has also been used extensively in research efforts (Hansen, 1986). While Campbell and Hansen (1981) purported: “From its inception in 1927, the Strong Vocational Interest Blank was an empirical, atheoretical instrument” (p. 28), Strong’s development of assessment procedures cannot be ignored as the SVIB and SCII are among the most widely used interest inventories today and still have a "profound impact on interest measurement" (Walsh & Osipow, 1986, p. vii).

Self-Directed Search
The Self-Directed Search (SDS) (Holland & Rayman, 1986) was developed for two purposes: to increase the number of people a counselor could successfully work with, and to provide vocational counseling to those who do not have, or who do not wish to have, access to a counselor. First published in 1971 and revised in 1977 and 1985, the SDS provides the test taker an assessment booklet which, when filled out, yields a hierarchical three-letter classification code with the first letter representing the strongest preference for a particular personality type. The three-letter code is then used in conjunction with the Occupations Finder to locate suitable occupations, simulating what a person and a counselor might do together over a period of several interviews. By eliminating unnecessary individual counseling and reducing the time needed to proctor, mail, score, and interpret interest inventories, counselors could spend more time with those who need individual counseling.

Based on Holland’s (1985) theory of career choice, the SDS was developed using the hypothesis that certain characteristics, i.e., competencies, preferred activities and self-ratings of abilities, of the individual as well as vocational interests are important in the vocational choice process (Campbell, 1988). Identified by Holland’s research (1985), six personality types, i.e., realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising, and conventional, serve as the basis to relate a person’s self-assessment of abilities and interests to appropriate occupations. Also based on Holland’s (1985) theory is the concept that a relationship exists between the person’s characteristics and a work environment, and that individuals will achieve greater success, satisfaction, and stability in occupations where the work environment fits their personality. Thus, the SDS can be used in identifying appropriate career choices.

Holland and Rayman (1986) considered the SDS to be an advance in interest assessment and vocational treatment for several reasons:
1. A person’s vocational aspirations, interests, competencies, and self-rated abilities are organized by a particular theory and related to an occupational classification system using the same theory.
2. Self-administered, self-scored, and self-interpreted, the SDS can be used with or without a counselor.
3. An ideal innovation, the SDS is an inexpensive assessment-intervention requiring no special training and is compatible with other existing career material.
4. The theoretical base of the SDS demonstrates that long term research and development support continued and constructive revisions.
5. An “open” inventory, the undisguised groupings of items on the SDS scales communicate the structure of vocational interests to encourage the test taker to think about work and personal characteristics in a systematic way.
6. The SDS and its related theory “represent a technological-theoretical advance” because they provide an “organization for mapping and understanding the massive information about people and occupations and the relation of one to the other” (p. 58).

The SDS consists of an Assessment Booklet, an Occupations Finder, and an interpretative booklet “Understanding Yourself and Your Career”. Developed to counter complaints that the SDS was not as self-interpreting as promised, the booklet was an effort to permit understanding of the theory behind the SDS rather than a simple description of the personality types (Holland & Rayman, 1986). The booklet also encouraged test takers to further investigate the jobs identified as appropriate and to view this list of jobs as only suggestions. Consulting with a counselor is also suggested.

The Assessment Booklet includes six scales with 38 items per scale in each of three categories: activities, competencies, and occupations, ability ratings in 6 areas, and 8 lines on which to list occupational daydreams, careers the test takers have daydreamed about, and those the test takers have discussed with others. The test taker then scores the responses given and calculates 6 summary scores. Using the summary scores, the test taker obtains a three-letter code determined by the three highest summary scores. The summary code is then used to locate appropriate occupational options listed in the Occupations Finder which contains 1,156 occupations (Holland & Rayman, 1986).

During revisions, additional job titles have been added to the Occupations Finder to make the list more reflective of current occupations. Changes have been made in an attempt to diminish sex differences in responses to the scales by altering selected items on the Occupations Scale. Devised for poor readers, Form E, i.e., Easy, (1979) was a modification of the SDS lowering the reading level several grade levels, i.e., Grade 4, below the standard form, i.e., Grade 8, with the scoring procedure yielding a two-letter rather than a three-letter code. Form E’s Occupations Finder, renamed Job Finder, has been modified to reflect the use of the two-letter rather than three-letter codes (Campbell, 1988; Holland & Rayman, 1986).

Campbell (1988) and Manuele-Adkins (1989) expressed concern about the number of scoring errors made by test takers, the inconsistent use of Holland’s typology across sections of the measure, and questions about test fairness because of the use of raw rather than normed scores. Using high school students as a research population, Zener & Schnuelle (1976) compared the SDS, the Vocational Preference Inventory (VPI), and no treatment. Students taking the SDS or VPI evaluated the inventories as positive, were satisfied with their current occupational choice, were considering more occupational alternatives than the control group, and the SDS group had less need to see a counselor. Pallas, Dahmann, Gucer, and Holland (1983) reported similar findings with high school and college students as well as workers. Additionally, Power, Holland, Daiger, and Takai (1979) found test takers with a clear sense of vocational identity found the experience reassuring.

Kuder Preference Record-Kuder Occupational Interest Survey
G. Frederic Kuder (1977) wanted to help young people enter satisfying careers, and as such, stated interests were the logical starting point when searching for a suitable occupation and would provide a way for individuals to “narrow prospects.” As a means of providing this starting point, Kuder developed a “forced-choice” inventory with the choices being everyday activities which Kuder felt almost everyone would be familiar. Kuder purported occupational titles or occupational activities specific to jobs were inappropriate when placed in interest inventories intended for the use of young adolescents with limited experience. On Kuder’s interest inventories, the test taker marks the preferred choice and least preferred choice, leaving the third unmarked. The occupational interpretation is made by identifying the two highest scores in the profile and referring to a group of occupations for which those are relevant. The low-interest scores are also important, as these might be activities the person would dislike performing.

Kuder's initial instrument, Kuder Preference Record (KPR), was developed in 1938 to “indicate interests in a small number of broad areas rather than specific occupations” (Hansen, 1984, p. 110). Beginning with factor analysis of single items in order to determine clusters of interests, Kuder identified ten clusters of occupational interests with a cluster being a group of items with substantial correlations with each other, i.e., a homogeneous scale. As the KPR was based on nonempirical evidence, early usage of the inventory was based on inference rather than evidence of predictive validity. Validity evidence has been gathered (Cronbach, 1949) as time has passed.

The Kuder Occupational Interest Survey (KOIS), introduced in 1966 with revisions in 1979 and 1985, was empirically keyed (Osipow, Walsh, & Tosi, 1984) and indicated to which occupational groups an individual was most similar. As was the KPR, the KOIS is a forced-choice inventory of one hundred items listing three activities from which to select most and least preferred activities. Responses are compared with those of men in a number of different occupations with an index of similarity reported on a profile. Scores are determined by means of a lambda score which is a ratio between the highest correlation individuals could receive on each occupational scale and the correlation they actually obtained between their responses and the responses of the occupational group (Zytowski, 1973b). The homogeneous scales allow the test taker to see the similarity to both the general and unique interests within the occupational group, whereas the SVIB-SCII shows only similarity to the specific interests of the occupational group itself. The KOIS also rank orders the occupations with which the test taker shows the greatest similarity (Zytowski & Borgen, 1983).

Although still considered one of the “Big Three” of interest inventories (Borgen, 1986) in use today, the KOIS has not seen the “pace of development that marked the earlier years of Kuder's inventories” (Zytowski & Kuder, 1986, p. 52). While good reliability and validity data has been reported, the KOIS has been criticized for its limited predictive validity; concurrent validity data availability for only 30 criterion groups; and inclusion of more male-dominated (65) than female-dominated (44) occupational scales (Herr, 1989; Jepsen, 1988).

Other Interest Inventories in Use
Many additional inventories have been developed since the 1950s based on theorizing done by Ginzberg et al.(1951), Roe (1956), Holland (1985), or Super (1990). We have come far from the days when only expressed ideas were used to foretell a youngster’s future. According to Tittle and Zytowski, in 1978 approximately 3,500,000 interest inventories were administered while American College Testing estimated the use of their UNIACT programs reached 4.2 million persons in 1994 (Prediger & Swaney, 1995).

Harrington and O’Shea career decision making system. First published in 1976 and revised in 1978, 1980, and 1982, the Career Decision Making System (CDMS) (Harrington & O’Shea, 1982) contains five self-report modules, i.e., stated occupational preferences, subject preferences, future plans, job values, and abilities. The 120-item interest inventory is a list of work-task activities and occupations using a like, can’t decide, or dislike response format. The five modules plus the interest inventory produces six raw scores that can range from 0 to 20 for each scale and are used to determine the examinee’s two point codes. While based on Holland (1973) typology, the scales use somewhat different names, i.e., Crafts, Scientific, The Arts, Social, Business, and Clerical. The paper-pencil version is a multiple page booklet and is also available in a computer version. Research has been conducted by Kapes and Vansickle (1992), O’Shea (1987), Rearden and Loughead (1988), and Wise and Plake (1990) regarding the reliability of the new computer version of the CDMS with the standard version.

Career assessment inventory. Considered by Borgen (1986) to be a “clone” of the Strong Interest Inventory although designed to benefit those students with no college plans in their future, the original purpose of The Career Assessment Inventory (CAI) (Johansson, 1975) was to assess the vocational interests of individuals planning to pursue occupations consistent with a technical school, business school, or subprofessional training. Revised in 1982 and again in 1986, The Career Assessment Inventory-Enhanced Version (CAI-EV) (Johansson, 1986) has now been expanded to include some professional level interests.

The CAI-EV has three tiers of scales: Occupational scales, Basic Interest Area Scales, and General Theme scales. Using a similar test booklet to the SII, the CAI-EV consists of 370 items and takes about 30-40 minutes to complete. Totally computer-scored, the CAI-EV provides a narrative report (Hackett & Watkins, 1995) to the test taker.

Bauernfiend (1989) and McCabe (1988) considered the CAI-EV to have psychometric properties as good as the SCII, but Lohnes (1982) expressed grave concerns about the absence of predictive validities. Wegner (1992) also expressed concern about validity, but in its use with professionally oriented clients, not the nonprofessional for which the CAI-EV was originally designed.

Jackson vocational interest survey. Borgen (1986) considered the Jackson Personality Inventory to be “state-of-the-art psychometrics” (p. 93), particularly Jackson’s use of forced-choice formats and complex item selection techniques that would control for a variety of response biases. Revised in 1977 to become the Jackson Vocational Interest Survey (JVIS), Jackson intended the JVIS not only for counseling purposes but also as a “tool for theorizing and conceptualizing interests as constructs” (Borgen, 1986, p. 94).

The JVIS incorporates a mix of scale types, from homogeneous scales to measures of occupational similarity. Consisting of 289 item pairs, the JVIS provides work-style preference, work-role preference, and general-interest pattern information to high school and college-age young adults and to adults in career planning (Hackett & Watkins, 1995). Incorporating many of the attractive features of the “Big Three” inventories, the JVIS is a forced-choice format, provides an occupational taxonomy, and is computer-scored, providing interest profiles and narratives linked to occupational classifications (Borgen, 1986).

Criticism of the JVIS has come from Jepsen (1992a), Brown (1989), and Davidshofer (1988) who stressed limited norm group descriptions, sparse theoretical background, and lack of predictive validity. Considered by Shephard (1989) to be the most serious limitation of the JVIS is that of “extremely narrow test norms and contents at least 10 years old” (p. 404).

Vocational interest inventory. While working with Anne Roe, Lunneborg began looking at the development of an interest inventory, culminating with the Vocational Interest Inventory (VII) in 1981 (Lunneborg, 1981), but no revisions have been forthcoming as in other inventories in use today. Grounded in Roe’s (1956) psychology of occupations, the VII uses a predictive design that allows high school students to compare themselves with students of the same age who later entered the same college majors as they might be considering. Lunneborg strove to create an inventory with minimal sex restrictiveness, excluding items with gender differences, and encouraging exploration by both sexes in nontraditional occupational roles. Additionally, the VII is composed of 112 forced-choice items, with half occupational items and half activities. Roe and Lunneborg (1990) stated this particular format of forced-choices is especially helpful with adolescents who have not crystallized their interests.

Lunneborg chose to use longitudinal data collection, inventorying twenty-six thousand high school juniors and seniors in Washington state and then following them into college majors and through graduation, enabling the high school junior now using the VII to ask “To what successful graduating class am I most similar?” This type of data collection is vastly different from the traditional approach of identifying adults in given occupations, then comparing the inventoried responses of young people to those already working in the different occupations, but may be actually closer to the true predictive purpose of interest inventories (Borgen, 1986). Lunneborg’s use of this longitudinal data has been criticized (Hackett & Watkins, 1995) because of its limited sample size and perspective since all those sampled were from Washington state.

Unisex edition of the ACT interest inventory. The Unisex edition of the American College Testing (ACT) Interest Inventory (Lamb & Prediger, 1981) is a major component in a comprehensive, integrated approach to career planning known as UNIACT. The ACT Guidance Profile was developed under the guidance of John Holland while working at ACT and replaced in 1971 with the ACT Interest Inventory. Introduced in 1977 and revised in 1989, UNIACT, a four program system, assesses academic development and supports career exploration and planning on three levels, i.e., grades 8-12, college students, and adults. Because of the influence of Holland, scores obtained using UNIACT parallel Holland’s six interest personality types although UNIACT’s scales use different names: Business Contact (enterprising), Business Operations (conventional), Technical (realistic), Science (investigative), Arts (artistic), and Social Service (social).

Although a visual occupational map was suggested by Cole, Whitney, and Holland (1971), Holland continued to use the three-letter codes. Prediger (1982) chose to build on this idea by introducing two underlying dimensions to Holland’s hexagon; working with data, e.g., facts, versus ideas, e.g., theories, and working with people, e.g., services, versus working with things, e.g., machines. Another addition was the ACT World-of-Work Map (Prediger, 1976), allowing the Holland three-letter code to be used in defining a person’s location within a region of the Map. The World-of-Work Map is divided into 12 regions with each representing a different mix of data, ideas, people, and things. Occupational groups, or job families, are located within these regions. Persons are encouraged to look not only at job families located in their region, but adjacent to their region.

The interest inventory, UNIACT, contains 90 test items which emphasize work-relevant activities, e.g., fix a toy, conduct a meeting, with a three-choice response format, i.e., like, indifferent, dislike. Activities are used because the more help people need with career planning, the less likely they are to have knowledge about various occupations (Kuder, 1977). The use of activities is also intended to minimize the effects of response style, i.e., choosing like more often than other responses. Completion of the test typically takes 10 to 15 minutes. Research conducted by Prediger (1981; 1982) and Prediger and Van Sickle (1992) supported the bipolar data/ideas and things/people work task dimensions used within the UNIACT. This use of work task dimensions provides a practical way to locate persons and occupations on Holland’s (1985) hexagon by means of locating coordinate points on the hexagon’s two planes. Prediger (1982) showed that the interests of workers, determined from mean interest scores for 563 occupations, are substantially related to their work tasks as determined by United States Department of Labor job analysis ratings. Usually only one or two of the basic work tasks capture the primary nature of an occupation, therefore, a vocational research psychologist may work with data, but the primary purpose is not to produce data but to apply scientific knowledge to the data, locating this occupation in the ideas region. Swaney’s (1995) work describes UNIACT’s age-graded nationally representative norm groups and also provides results from 14 criterion-related validity studies which indicate the validity of UNIACT’s gender-balanced interest scores are at least as high as those of gender-restrictive raw scores. Kifer (1985), in reviewing the UNIACT, stated “there is a sufficient amount of technical evidence about UNIACT to make me believe that it is as good as its principal competitors” (p. 35).

Virginia R. Richards, EdD
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