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How do you identify whether someone is a good leader?

By Bob Wheeler, co-author of the Leadership Judgement Indicator Suite. Reprinted with permission from www.formula4leadership.com.

A couple of weeks ago I was at a wedding party and ran into Bob, an ex-colleague who I’d not seen for many years.  He is now the MD of a large construction company, based in London.  In the middle of a lively and enjoyable reunion, we inevitably spent some time talking about the people we had known and the experiences we had shared.  An important influence on both of us had been a man called Ian Rae.  We had each worked for him at different points in our early careers.

Following that conversation I have reflected a lot on the question how do you identify whether someone is a good leader?

For some people the answer is easy – “if they get good results, they must be a good leader, right?”  For others, it’s equally straightforward but not so hard edged – “getting good results in the short term could be a result of lots of things such as the market, luck, even what the previous guy had set up.  Leadership is about how well you engage your people”.  I think both these approaches are one dimensional.  There is a need to consider both the results achieved and the ability to build relationships in a way which increases the capability of individuals and the organisation as a whole.

So how does my conversation with Bob impact on this?

Ian was an ebullient, hard working and approachable chief executive of a large textile business.  He had spent much of the early part of his career in Trade Union negotiations at a time when confrontation had been the default setting in British employee relations.  He had skills shared by many successful negotiators, humorous, outcome focused, quick to see the merits in the argument and able to be very tough when necessary.

My friend recalled Ian telling him a story which had stayed with him throughout his career.  He had found it particularly useful whenever he had started to feel that what he was doing was so important that he was becoming indispensible.  Ian had said to him it was important to remember when working in a large company that it was similar to putting your hand into a bucket of water.  Once you pull it out, you can see how much you will be missed by the size of hole that is left.  I have subsequently found that the most elegant version of this story is contained in the poem the “Indispensable Man” by Saxon White Kessinger.

In some ways, you could interpret this as suggesting that leadership is what you achieve in the short term as measured by the results you get while you are in post.  There is no doubt that Ian achieved outstanding financial results.  The company was an environment which required good results in order to survive.

However, this misses the point of this story.  Bob and I were having a conversation 25 years after the event.  Ian’s impact had been significant on the way in which both of us had developed as people.  The impact of his leadership was still being felt many years after he had died.

The implications of this are that Ian’s task achievement in the short term and the longer term impact he had had on the people he worked with were both indicators of his effectiveness as a leader.  He had achieved his results through outstanding leadership.  More than many people I have ever worked with, he focused both on achieving the task and developing his colleagues.  The development was not an “add on” once the task had been achieved, it was an integral part of the way in which he achieved outstanding results.

I am going to end this reflection by referring to the experience of another colleague of Ian’s.  Martin Taylor was interviewed in 1993 by the Independent Newspaper, having achieved the position of chief executive of a major plc before the age of 40.  The focus of the article had been on his relationships with Sir Christopher Hogg, the Chairman of Courtaulds, who had been instrumental in encouraging Martin to leave his career as a financial journalist in order to go into business management.  Tellingly, Martin said “Everyone talks about what Chris Hogg did for me, which was tremendous, but I owe Ian an enormous debt in that he knew exactly how much to leave me alone and, when I did something particularly stupid, he was there to catch the ball.  I couldn’t have asked for a more helpful environment”.  This sure sounds like leadership to me.

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NEO’s big day out: celebrating the Big Five

NEO Personality Inventory (UK) aficionados came together 26th October to discuss some of the latest research, use cases, assessment feedback techniques and tools and more — culminating in a networking event that had everyone leaving high on Extraversion and Openness!

The team from Hogrefe welcomed NEO users to the British Psychological Society offices in central London, with new General Manager Pamela Becker launching the day and introducing NEO-PI-3 UK adaptor Wendy Lord.

Wendy presented on the Five Factor Model and managerial derailment — explaining how we can use the NEO to explore the ‘dark side’ of personality. ‘Dark’ personality traits assessed by occupational personality inventories, Wendy explained to the group, are viewed as ‘sub-clinical’ – a middle ground between ‘normal’ personality and clinically significant deviations in how a person understands the world and operates within it. She went on to discuss how leadership has been a major focus of research in the area of how certain personality configurations can cause a person to derail.

Jon Cowell of Edgecumbe Group then explored a current project that the consulting company is working on: using machine learning to explore what ‘good’ leadership looks like. Using NEO and 360 data, Jon and his team have been exploring what good leadership looks like from the point of view of employees and leaders.

Finally, delegates had a chance to look together at assessment feedback — including a demonstration of NEO Cards for assessment feedback by concept creator Margaret Macafee and the ensuing discussion on difficult feedback profiles (are people really average? Or are they ‘balanced’?) — before learning about some of Hogrefe’s upcoming NEO-related projects, such as an HR report and online training scheduled for publication in 2018. Supporting projects also include the launch of a newly-normed ability suite of assessments to complement the personality measure: Power and Performance Measures, coming very soon.

For more on the NEO or other Hogrefe measures, please contact consulting@hogrefe.co.uk.

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Publishing & positioning to meet UK clinical psychology needs

Back in the Spring we launched an initiative to find out more about our clinical test users – your likes, your experiences, your needs, and how you are using assessments in your day-to-day clinical practice. As part of that initiative we composed a survey which went out to many of you across both the public and private sectors and across different areas of assessment within the clinical realm. We also reached out to our university links across the country to establish how we can best support test use within academia, and find out how we can get our assessments in the hands of the next generation of test users.

We would like to take this opportunity to say a huge ‘thank you’ to all of those who took the survey for their valuable contributions. We received a fantastic response and we really appreciate those of you who were able to take the time to feed back to us.

Your survey results have really positioned us for 2018, as we are now better able to understand your assessment needs in terms of future development — such as the importance of UK-normed tests in your test toolkit, and the growing need for online (or at least electronically-scored) measures. Being a publisher of our own psychometric assessments, this information will be incredibly useful for our publishing plans going forward – making sure that we develop the tools that you and your clients really need, that will add real value to your clinical practice. We’ve got some exciting projects in the pipeline and we’re looking forward to sharing them with you as plans develop. For the moment, keep an eye out for our 2018 clinical catalogue, which will contain further details of what’s to come.

Hogrefe is dedicated to keeping up-to-date with the latest trends in the industry and maintaining active links with practitioners is a key part of that. While our survey has now closed, if you have any feedback or ideas you would like to communicate with us, we are always happy to hear from you. Feel free to email us at clinical@hogrefe.co.uk.

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Leading personality: Q&A with Leadership Judgement Indicator Authors Bob Wheeler and Michael Lock

Q. The original concept for the LJI assessment is over ten years old now.  How did the idea for this situational judgement test first come to be?

BW: Michael and I met when we were each running our own separate independent management consultancies. We came from different backgrounds and disciplines but shared certain values about effective leadership and its importance in the lives of people and organisations. Initially, we started meeting for our own personal development. The reading and research that we were undertaking and the discussions that we were having inevitably influenced the work we were doing with clients. Their feedback has been really important both in developing our own thinking and establishing the need for the situational judgement test which became the LJI. Initially, we used it in our own consulting work, then it was used by colleagues who recognised its value. It was, therefore, a working instrument when we started to talk with Hogrefe about it being published.

ML: After realising the very different yet complementary skills we both brought to the table we decided a useful focus for our future dialogue would be ‘leadership’; we agreed it could become a vehicle that we could use as a way of cross-cultivating ideas and pursuing a joint journey to make organisations healthier places. We agreed that organisational health could be defined as the sum of dynamic interactions that go on at any one point in time between the leaders and the people who report to them. We then set out to search for a methodology that would allow us to both measure and influence ‘organisational health’ and we came upon the PhD thesis of Richard Field. His thesis, ‘A test of the Vroom-Yetton Contingency Model of Leadership Behaviour’ was an incredible find and one that set us firmly on our journey.  Richard’s PhD introduced us to a unique type of situational judgement testing which is based upon a set of rules for effective leadership behaviour; Richard showed that the Vroom-Yetton model was particularly good at predicting when leaders could be at their most effective when dealing with practical, real life situations.

Q. In your opinions, how has the practice of assessing leaders changed since that time?

BW: On an optimistic day, I hope that fewer organisations are suffering from executive whim – something that a participant on a training programme that I was running described as ‘focusing management attention depending on articles in in-flight magazines’. More organisations consist of people from a wide range of cultures and people are becoming more informed about the importance of recognising this. The use of the LJI and other psychometrics has helped hugely in helping people realise that genuine measures can improve the results which had previously relied entirely on “gut feeling”.

ML: Since Bob and I started working together and exploring how to effectively assess leadership, we have observed a burgeoning array of tests and tools for colourfully assessing leadership traits, style and competence. However, there is still a dearth of measures that seek to assess the wisdom that leaders employ when engaging with their reporting colleagues. SJTs get closest, but all competitors adopt an entirely different approach to scoring than our principle-driven methodology.

Q. The LJI Suite now consists of assessments covering standard leadership, global leadership and sales leadership, as well as a nifty interactive tool called the Leadership Judgement Assessor.  How did you first see the utility in a number of different assessments?

ML: It must be emphasised that the leadership decision-making Suite is built upon very firm foundations. The Suite is built upon a set of principles for effective leadership decision-making. The scenarios within the LJI have been written using those principles so that they are each ‘pure’ types of the eight possible styles within our decision-making taxonomy.

The LJI Series seek to assess a person’s current Judgement and Preferences for those styles (i.e. the person’s present status and achievement in leadership decision-making). The LJI takes a number of different forms (e.g. Sales, Global, etc) so that respondents can be gauged against peers with whom they identify using scenarios that hold good face validity. The LJA provides another important and complementary assessment. The LJA asks the person to examine their own leadership behaviour within their own workplace. It then explores their willingness and ability to grow in their leadership judgement and practice – whether the person is prepared, willing and able to grasp the principles and use them in a way which shows that they do this thoughtfully and developmentally in the real world. Thus, the two approaches are complementary to each other. The LJI looks at the person’s current state whilst the LJA explores what they can possibly achieve in the future.  The underlying principles, upon which they are both built, then provide the methodology to help the person grow in their leadership decision making.

BW: It’s very straight forward; it has come from client needs. The G-LJI was developed in response to a need from a global chemical company who were already making significant use of the standard LJI. They wanted an instrument based on the same model which would help them explicitly address the development of more senior managers who were facing the challenges of leading in a global environment. Similarly, the S-LJI resulted from sales directors saying things like ‘I know it’s all about leading people but Sales is different’. In order for people to engage, it was important to have scenarios in the S-LJI that reflected the types of challenges which sales leaders faced.

Q. LJI is used in both selection and development.  Can you speak to the importance of assessing leadership in both areas?

ML: Some time ago I was talking to the HR Director of a large company.  We were studying the psychometric results of the Marketing Department following a period of recruitment. Fascinatingly, we were able to compare and contrast the profiles of a newly appointed marketing director with the successful candidate who had recently been appointed to a product manager position. The marketing director and the product manager were both as bright as each other on the aptitude tests administered. Moreover, it was also not surprising to see that they had very similar personality structures; people drawn to marketing often have similarities of personality that draw them to this profession. Nevertheless, it was very clear that, when observed within the business, the marketing director and the product manager behaved very differently, especially in their use of power. The marketing director was much more sophisticated and effective in her leadership of people.

So what was the differentiating factor? This was only evident when the results of the LJI were studied. Then it was very clear that the Judgement of the marketing director was significantly stronger than that of the younger and less experienced product manager. The LJI showed this graphically, not only with the Overall Judgement score but also with more elevated scores in each of the four main styles. Although leadership ‘judgement’ is an ‘ability’, it is not a fixed entity like IQ is purported to be. Leadership judgement is seen as something that can be developed; therefore, the product manager still had the opportunity to grow and develop in their leadership judgement.

BW: In talking with Hogrefe’ s customers, I don’t need to emphasise the importance of assessments being rigorous and psychometrically robust. When selecting candidates for key roles, getting the best possible evidence to help predict the likely future behaviour of the candidate is obviously critical. At Formula 4 Leadership, we have a fundamental belief that the effectiveness of a leader can be developed. Properly presented, the LJI results can help a person to recognise the current and predictable impact that their leadership approach is having both on their colleagues and themselves. My experience is that this helps people to recognise and articulate more clearly their development needs. At that point, the clarity of the conceptual model and its underlying research based principles, help the development process. The LJI’s unique approach in identifying preference and judgement scores for each style is an enormously powerful support.

Q. Finally, who have you looked up to as a leader – personally or in the public forum – and what style of preferred leadership would you have imagined them having?

BW: The most powerful impact comes from people you really know. It’s interesting that this is not just a personal anecdotal response but one which is confirmed by research which shows that the most powerful impact on individuals’ engagement is the relationship which they have with their immediate line manager. Consequently, three of the strongest influences on me have been my father, my history teacher who taught me when I was 14 and my first ever boss. Suffice it to say that they have had a long-term impact on my approach to things.

In a more light-hearted fashion, ever since I was a boy I have been excited by the stories about Nelson as a leader. His ability to build the famous “band of brothers” amongst the sea captains who reported to him must have been extraordinary, given the extreme challenges they were facing and the limited opportunities for regular communication.

ML: In answer to this question I would like to talk about my mentor, boss and task master, Roberta Grimes. Roberta was the Pastoral Deputy Headteacher in a very large upper school where I was the Head of Year. It was a 13 form entry school and I had approaching 400 students in my care. Roberta provided leadership to me and helped me grow and develop in my own leadership over the 400 students and 18 members of staff who reported to me on the pastoral side. I am someone who is, in the language of Meredith Belbin’s team role typology, a Plant, so I had a great desire to develop and introduce new ideas into my practice. I believe that I was able to do this, and that it was facilitated by the leadership that Roberta was able to exert. She was a wonderfully empowering leader who gave me the space and opportunity to express myself professionally. However, she was also able to exert control at appropriate times in order to put a ‘touch on the tiller’ so that I could, where needed, adjust my approach to maintain a direction that was always in keeping with the ethos of the school and which supported the academic staff and the educational development of the students in my care. Roberta provided that leadership and undoubtedly helped me develop to the point where I was ready to embark on the next stage of my career, in my training as an educational psychologist.

 

 

 

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Pamela Becker joins Hogrefe Publishing Group as Executive Board Member and UK General Manager

Hogrefe Publishing Group today announced the appointment of Pamela Becker as Group Executive Board Member and UK General Manager, effective immediately. Ms Becker joins Hogrefe most recently from her position as VP, Worldwide Channels with the former Performance Assessment Network (now a PSI Company).

‘Pamela is a hugely accomplished strategic leader with a long history in occupational, educational and clinical assessment publishing and consulting,’ said Dr G.-Jürgen Hogrefe, Publisher and CEO of Hogrefe Publishing Group, Göttingen. ‘We are very fortunate to have her joining the Hogrefe Group, and are confident her insight and experience will contribute greatly to the continued growth and relevance of Hogrefe – especially as we expand further throughout Europe and worldwide.’

Pamela BeckerMs Becker’s varied career has given her a wide breadth of experience in all aspects of publishing market-driven assessments, from early item development through research analysis to marketing and sales. After obtaining her Master of Arts in Psychology from the University of Notre Dame and earning hands-on experience in the field, she established herself in the American test publishing sector first as Director of Sales and Training with Consulting Psychologists Press, and later as Vice President of Marketing with Riverside Publishing Company and K-12/Corporate Brand Director for Educational Testing Service.

More recently, Ms Becker spent several years as President of the Institute for Personality and Ability Testing before taking on her most recent challenge with PAN. In her time as VP, Worldwide Channels with PAN, she led the transition of a previously North American-focused company to a global entity, ensuring customer needs were detailed and met through customer service and technology systems.

Ms Becker will be located at Hogrefe Ltd in Oxford, where in her role as General Manager she will focus on continuing to develop and expand quality, science-led assessments for the occupational, clinical and educational sectors. Her additional role with the Hogrefe Executive Board will give the Group welcome opportunity to collaborate and expand its unified presence in the global market.

‘I am thrilled to join the Hogrefe team,’ said Ms Becker. ‘Their reputation for integrity and high-quality measurement is well-known in the industry, and their broad market focus is very appealing. I’m looking forward to bringing my experience to the team and working together with our authors on developing strong global assessments, ranging in focus from infant development to adult employment – and every important stage in between.’

Hogrefe Publishing Group (Göttingen)

Hogrefe is the leading European science publisher for psychology, psychotherapy and psychiatry. These core areas are supplemented by publications in the fields of nursing, healthcare and medicine. Originally founded in 1949 as Hogrefe Verlag in Göttingen, the Hogrefe Group today includes publishing companies in 15 countries (Germany, Switzerland, Austria, UK, USA, France, The Netherlands, Czech Republic, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Brazil, Spain, Portugal). The independent, family owned Hogrefe Group is headed by Dr G.-Jürgen Hogrefe, the son of the founder, and employs around 350 people. It currently has approximately 2,500 books in print, with about 200 new releases each year. More than 40 scientific and professional journals cover all of Hogrefe’s core subject areas. Hogrefe publishes around 1,600 psychometric tests in numerous languages, and offers a range of consultancy, training services and innovative digital solutions.

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Addressing the elephant: Unconscious bias in the workplace

You’ve likely heard the term ‘unconscious bias’ – it’s become an important topic in the area of diversity and inclusion in the workplace, particularly as notable tech companies such as Google and Facebook make headlines in their attempts to address it. Organisations are now increasingly aware of the potential negative effect unconscious bias can have on revenue, productivity and talent – and as a result many are now including unconscious bias training and workshops as part of their HR strategies.

Until recently, the missing piece of the unconscious bias jigsaw has always been what, exactly, can we to advise people to do about it? After all, unconscious bias is by its very definition not consciously detected, and so not easily open to introspection. Research has emerged to show that giving people better cognitive strategies not only reduces unconscious bias, but that bias levels continue to fall after intervention. This work, and a recent review of the wider literature, has given rise to some very practical and research-led ideas on mitigating the effects of unconscious bias.

Here are a selection of things we can all do to help reduce our bias and the effect it can have on your business:

1) Get tested: In order to effectively tackle our unconscious biases, it helps to know which social groups we may have such bias towards or against. Unconscious bias can be measured using an Implicit Association Test, such as Hogrefe’s Implicitly

2) Slow down: Allow time for the conscious brain to engage. Delay making key decisions about people to a time when you are able to give full consideration, and then take the time to challenge the decisions you do make.

3) Avoid emotional triggers: When we’re tired, stressed or have other emotionally-draining work to carry out, we are more susceptible to our biases. Think about how you schedule any work which involves making decisions about people.

4) Get a critical friend: Asking someone to get you to explain or justify your decisions to them will make them fairer (or do it in the mirror – that works too!). If we know that our decisions are unlikely to be challenged, we tend to be more biased.

5) Don’t be afraid to ask: Biases struggle to keep their hold on us when we see people as individuals, so endeavour to learn more about your colleagues. People are rarely offended by being asked a question about their lives and they are more often delighted that you are interested. Make this a two-way street: try to be open to others asking questions about you and your life.

6) Give yourself a break: Don’t beat yourself up about the fact that you have biases. We all have them. Feeling bad (emotional load) can make it more difficult to manage any biases you do have. Give yourself a break and relax.

Organisations can be trained to use Implicitly to identify and address bias in their organisations – and to use those results in a useful and ethical manner, raising awareness and, with time and training, conscious action. You can find more information on Implicitly on the Hogrefe website, including upcoming training dates.

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What to know before you go: workplace psychometrics

Workplace psychometric tests allow us to assess individuals on areas such as ability, personality and motivation. All our tests, such as our newest, the Leadership Motivation Inventory (LEAMO), have been developed using a complex technical procedure to ensure that they really do measure what it is they claim to assess.

Workplace assessments are mainly used for role selection, personal development or career guidance. They help us to find out a little bit more about someone in a way that is reliable and accurate, and allow us to see differences between people – particularly when using ranking and profiling features, such as those offered by our HTS 5 system.

In general, psychometric tests fall into two main categories:

1. Measures of typical performance

These measures aim to assess how an individual is likely to behave or their typical style of behaving. These can include things such as our interests or our personality. There is no right or wrong answer, as these types of assessments measure what you think. An example of a typical performance question is:

On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being ‘strongly disagree’ and 5 being ‘strongly agree’, to what extent do you agree with the following statement?

‘I like most people that I meet’

This type of measure is often referred to as a personality assessment or behavioural test.

2. Measures of maximum performance

Tests of particular abilities or aptitude are known as maximum performance tests. For these types of assessments there are usually right or wrong answers, and you should try to answer the questions correctly. An example of a maximum performance question is:

Question 1: All the houses in Winscombe were built this century or shortly before, but Ferrydale, 20 miles to the north east, has many lovely old houses. Milton is 15 miles north of Ferrydale, with buildings of much the same type. Westwood is a small village south east of Winscombe, with several eighteenth-century cottages.

Which is least likely to have an eighteenth century house?

A. Winscombe
B. Ferrydale
C. Milton
D. Westwood

Your scores from both typical and maximum performance measures are compared to lots of other people who have taken the test, which is called a norm or comparison group. This allows us to see how typical or similar you are to other people. For example, if you scored 30% on an ability test you might think that this is not very good, however if everyone else scores 20% then in actual fact your score is better than most others in your comparison group.

Only individuals trained to British Psychological Society (BPS) Test User Occupational: Ability or Test User Occupational: Personality standards have access to occupational psychometric tests in the UK. When you are asked to take a psychometric test, you can check the name of the person responsible for the testing (known as the ‘test user’), and ask what their qualifications are by contacting the Psychological Testing Centre (PTC). All qualified individuals are held on a record that you can access through the PTC. You can also do some research on the test itself, and check whether it is sold by a reliable provider. Essentially though, the onus is on the person who has asked you to complete the test to act in a responsible, fair and ethical way when using psychometrics. Organisations and individuals using psychometric tests must follow guidelines for data protection (Data Protection Act 1994), and also those set out by the BPS.

When you are asked to take a psychometric test you should be given the following information:

  • Why the test is being used
  • How the results will be used
  • How the tests will be scored and by whom
  • What feedback you will receive on your test scores
  • Who will have access to the results and how long they will be stored for.

When used appropriately and by suitable qualified individuals, psychometric tests can provide valuable insight to increase self-awareness. It is understandable to feel anxious, worried or even nervous about taking a test. The person who has asked you to complete the test should be able to provide you with reassurance and advice, and use the checklist above to make sure that you get the right information.

Further information and guidance can be found on the Psychological Testing Centre website www.psychtesting.org.uk or by contacting us at consulting@hogrefe.co.uk.

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The DESSA-Mini is the psychometric of choice for new national character award programme, the Prince William Award

We’re excited to share with you that the Devereux Student Strengths Assessment (DESSA-mini) has been selected as the psychometric of choice for a new national character award programme, the Prince William Award. Education charity SkillForce is delivering the programme to young people across the country and Hogrefe Ltd is delighted to provide them with local access to the measure on behalf of US-based social enterprise Aperture Education. Read the press statement from Aperture Education in full for more on this pioneering new project:

 

Charlotte N.C. (June 1, 2017) — Aperture Education, a social enterprise focused on social-emotional learning skills, has partnered with the education charity SkillForce to provide data for a new program to build social-emotional skills in students throughout the United Kingdom.

The SkillForce Prince William Award is a character-building program in the UK for children ages 6 to 14. After a successful pilot this year in 37 schools, the program is expanding to additional schools throughout the UK in September, 2017. The program combines practical and reflective learning through classroom-based and outdoor activities to develop character, resilience, compassion, courage, teamwork and problem solving skills. It draws on the expertise and skills of ex-Services personnel who work as SkillForce instructors.

SkillForce selected the Devereux Student Strengths Assessment (DESSA-mini), to measure the program’s effectiveness. The DESSA-mini is a strengths-based assessment that allows educators to screen students for social and emotional learning (SEL) competence. It identifies students that have SEL strengths, as well as others who need additional support, and tracks their progress over time.

“Helping students build strong social and emotional skills sets them up for success not only in academics, but also in life,” said Marc Kirsch, Director of Sales and Business Development for Aperture Education. “Our partnership with like-minded company SkillForce will help to improve the SEL skills of students throughout the UK. We are pleased at the promising results of the pilot and are excited about the upcoming national rollout.”

Interim research findings from the pilot show that teachers at both primary and secondary schools, across all key stages and settings, have noticed substantial changes in students’ behavior, attitude and skills in particular confidence, communication and the ability to work with others.

The program’s expansion was announced in March by Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, who serves as SkillForce’s Royal Patron. It is supported by investment company Standard Life, and its academic partner is the Jubilee Centre at the University of Birmingham.

The pilot, which ran in schools for one afternoon a week throughout the 2016-17 academic year, covered five themes: personal development, relationships, working, community and environment. It includes levels for each different age group: pioneer (minimum age 6), explorer (minimum age 8), and trailblazer (minimum age 12). In addition to team tasks and practical challenges, students receive feedback from instructors that encourage them to reflect on their actions and experiences, and consider how they would behave differently next time.

“We are thrilled to launch the Prince William Award, a pioneering new program and the first of its kind, which will help children and young people build character, resilience and an inner strength for life. I want to thank The Duke for his fantastic support,” said Ben Slade, Chief Executive of SkillForce. “Character attributes can be developed in children and young people, given the right mentoring. Our ex-Services personnel, who work as instructors in schools, inspire children and young people to dare to be their best selves. Developing personal skills is as valuable as academic study, given that character traits such as courage, cooperation, listening and problem solving can affect academic performance, psychological wellbeing and job success later in life.”

The partnership with SkillForce was developed through Aperture Education’s publisher in the UK, Hogrefe. It is part of Aperture Education’s ongoing work to support students’ social and emotional health in the U.S. and abroad. Aperture Education works with educators, administrators and out-of-school-time providers who are implementing social and emotional learning programs within their schools providing strength-based assessments and resilience-building resources to help address the whole child. Its goal is to ensure members of school and out-of-school time communities, including adults, have the social and emotional skills needed to thrive.

Aperture Education offers products and services to support SEL programs, including Evo Social/Emotional, a K-12 online assessment and intervention tool. It uses the Devereux Student Strengths Assessment (DESSA) to help educators measure students’ SEL skills and implement individualized, classroom and school-wide strategies for instruction and intervention.

For more information about the Prince William Award program, visit http://www.skillforce.org or follow @SkillForceUK. Hashtags: #SkillForcePWA #PrinceWilliamAward #BeYourBest #Character #Resilience.

About Aperture Education

Aperture Education is a social enterprise focused on addressing the whole child. Its social-emotional learning (SEL) solution, Evo Social/Emotional, is based on the Devereux Student Strengths Assessment (DESSA), a standardized, strengths-based measure of critical social and emotional skills such as personal responsibility, self-management, relationship skills and healthy decision-making. The Evo Social/Emotional online platform includes both the DESSA assessment and the DESSA-Mini, a brief, universal screener of social and emotional competence. Evo Social/Emotional also provides strategies to strengthen social and emotional skills. Version 2.0, now available, provides the data needed to help SEL program administrators measure the impact of their programs and to help educators understand students’ SEL needs and strengths. For more information, go to www.ApertureEd.com. 

About SkillForce

SkillForce is a national education charity that specializes in character and resilience, and puts heroes in schools to transform lives, empowering children and young people to make positive choices. The charity’s dual mission includes supporting ex-Services personnel and their transition into civilian life. SkillForce delivers educational programs that develop character, self-confidence, resilience, teamwork and problem-solving skills.  Founded in 2000 and a registered charity since 2004, SkillForce has helped more than 60,000 children and young people. The Duke of Cambridge has been the charity’s Royal Patron since 2009.  As the home of character education and the Prince William Award, SkillForce works with more than 200 schools in England, Scotland and Wales. For more information, visit www.skillforce.org. Join us on LinkedIn and Facebook. Call 01623 827651.

-Ends-

This press release was originally posted by Aperture Education here.

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Breaking away from the ‘stiff upper lip’: processing emotions in the modern era

It is estimated that one in every four of us will experience a mental health problem at some point in our lives. Chances are, even if we ourselves are not suffering, we all have someone close to us who is. Despite these high prevalence levels, there is very much a stigma over mental health in this country. This stigma is deep-rooted, having somehow become engrained within our national identity – the British have long been characterised as placing importance on keeping a ‘stiff upper lip’. It’s something that we seem to pride ourselves on, without ever really questioning.

This seems to be embedded within the male psyche in particular – studies have found that men are on average far less likely to seek professional help when struggling with a mental health issue, with suicide rates alarmingly high (in fact, suicide is the biggest killer for men under the age of 45 in the UK).

And so the honest and upfront talk about mental health in the media over the last couple of weeks, though long overdue, feels incredibly groundbreaking. Few will have missed Prince Harry’s recent headline-making interview, in which he spoke candidly about his own experiences. He and the other young royals also fronted the recent Heads Together #OKTOSAY campaign, aiming to ‘change the conversation on mental health’ to huge press attention. Far from being just another half-hearted celebrity-fronted campaign, this feels like a genuine turning point, and their decision to talk openly has (quite rightly) received praise from mental health professionals, politicians and the media alike. The way we talk about mental health may finally be changing.

The truth is, we can all benefit from keeping tabs on our mental health just as we would with our physical health. No matter what your level of privilege, we all encounter stressful life events one way or another – and whether they be hugely traumatic events, or far smaller, they can all take their toll psychologically. A wealth of psychological and psychiatric research has shown how stressful life events can have a ‘triggering’ effect for many different disorders.

Of course not everyone who experiences an emotionally-salient negative event will go on to develop problems. Clinical Psychologist and emotional processing expert Dr Roger Baker explains that such events “need to be emotionally absorbed, adapted to and integrated into our experience so that we can get on with the task of daily living.” Over many years of research into this process, Dr Baker and his team discovered that there are both healthy and unhealthy styles of emotional processing: “A resilient emotional processing style means that a person can more effectively deal with stressors when they occur so there are less psychological and physical repercussions. Problematic styles of processing may mean that the stressful event is not properly absorbed or integrated, resulting in physical and psychological symptoms.”

The key thing to recognise is that our emotions are not enemy forces to be suppressed or kept in line, as the longstanding ‘stiff upper lip’ approach would have us believe. Rather, they are entirely natural responses – like a second immune system protecting us and helping us to understand and interpret the world around us.

Developed by Dr Roger Baker and his research team, the Emotional Processing Scale (EPS) is a groundbreaking psychometric tool that examines healthy and unhealthy styles of emotional processing and potential deficits. The EPS has already received high praise from the British Psychological Society for its pioneering approach to mental health. Discover the EPS at here.

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Q&A with author of the SPANS, Consultant Clinical Psychologist Dr Gerald Burgess

As Brain Injury Awareness Month drew to a close it was fitting that we caught up with Dr Gerald (‘Jerry’) Burgess, author of our test battery for the assessment of acquired brain injury and other neurological disorders, the SPANS. We sat down to discuss the test’s development and utility, the upcoming norms extension project, and current research studies utilising the measure. You can read the interview in full below:

You developed the SPANS ‘on the job’ – what led you to design the test?

It was a new job for me, working as a clinical psychologist across two acquired brain injury (ABI) neurorehabilitation inpatient wards in Leicester. I was referred patients who needed first of all to understand what consequence(s) they suffered from an ABI, to assess cognitive skills and understand their new profile of strengths and weaknesses. This information was needed for the patients and their families to understand and so the neurorehabilitation team could advise them, and also in order to devise a rehabilitation plan, make placement decisions, understand the recovery trajectory and predicted level of independence we may expect, and often to make a clinical judgment on their mental capacity to make certain types of decisions.

I wished to be thorough in my assessments, and cover the multitude of abilities I was discovering that can go wrong in a frighteningly wide range of patient’ ABI’s. There was not in existence a comprehensive, yet brief, measure with norms to match my patients’ age range, which was late adolescence to old age. Before I developed the SPANS, in order to get an equally comprehensive battery, I had to borrow subtests from different batteries, with the associated problems of comparing subtest performances that used different metrics and norm groups. I started designing the SPANS because I needed a comprehensive but brief assessment with subtests co-normed side-by-side with each other.

What sort of information does the SPANS provide?

The SPANS now has 30 brief subtests that spread over seven index scores, namely, orientation, attention/concentration, language, memory/learning, visuo-motor performance, efficiency, and conceptual flexibility. Each of these indexes contains two-to-eight subtests. The reason for so many subtests is that when there are multiple subtests measuring the same cognitive skill, one gets more reliable and trustworthy scores in that index score, that it raises the confidence that the label of the index score is intended to measure is indeed what gets measured.

Also there are neuro-anatomically different skills that are independent, or doubly-dissociate, that come under the same broad umbrella label. For example, ‘language’ is multi-faceted and includes expression, naming, comprehension, repetition, reading, and writing. All must be assessed for a thorough ‘language’ assessment to have taken place, or for any one cognitive domain for that matter. Thus as in this example, the SPANS screens many independent skills inherent within its subtests, and then cumulatively produces a very reliable index score in the broader cognitive domains. As a result, it is also possible to screen for neurological syndromes using the SPANS, including aphasia and type, unilateral neglect and spatial impairment, object agnosia, agraphia, acalculia, alexia/dyslexia, and apraxia.

How does this compare to other assessments intended for acquired brain injury?

The SPANS is the only test that considered a wide range of ABI’s and after effects in its design features and item selection, and therefore is like no other. Also, in many, many cases, I see no reason not to make the SPANS the assessment-of-choice when screening or doing a brief sensitive and specific comprehensive assessment with someone with ABI. The SPANS offers the most reliable index scores due to what I explained earlier, but also the most reliable re-test available with its alternative version, and the best test-retest reliability coefficients in its class of tests. The SPANS has more subtests than any other test in its class, and more, and more reliable index scores. The SPANS thus provides a lot of opportunities for norm-referenced observations of behaviour, but in administrating and scoring combined, it does not take longer than other tests in its class. One reason for its comprehensiveness, yet brevity, is that the SPANS was designed to be sensitive and specific with people with normal/average IQ – meaning that at a high percentage it should discriminate between those with no presence or history of ABI or neurological condition to those with even very mild-to-moderate impairment from some condition that affects cognitive abilities. ROC analysis showed that the SPANS is very successful with this in all of its index scores, particularly visuo-motor performance and efficiency. The SPANS was designed to not have to do more testing than is necessary on any one skill or subtest, and still provide good, accurate information if a particular skill or broader domain is impaired or not, and a means to interpret this in real depth. Some tests in this class over-test, require that the patient do more in regard to a single skill or subtest, but to come to the same finding or conclusion. With this, the SPANS can assess more skills but in an equal amount of time – and the patients tend to enjoy it and participate better too as a consequence of not being over-worked, and doing a variety of tasks.

Can it be used in areas beyond acquired brain injury?

It depends on one’s point of view, of which mine is that yes, the SPANS can be used for any neuropsychological assessment if the age of the individual being assessed coincides with the norms range the SPANS possesses. The opposing opinion is that a test should not be used with people with particular clinical/neurological conditions that have not been in sufficient mass assessed using the tool in question, and these data are available, reported to clinicians.

My view is that the neuropsychological profile of particular conditions is well known, and thus with a measure designed like the SPANS is, to assess neuro-anatomically-dictated cognitive, perceptual, and language skills by conventional means, and to do so using many sensitive and specific subtests and reliable index scores, the purpose of any neuropsychological assessment can be achieved. What was useful about clinically designing and norming the SPANS on ABI is that ABI is non-discriminatory – affects right and left hemispheres, includes primary direct damage and secondary effects, every lobe and mid-brain and brain stem, grey matter and white matter, diffuse or focal. It is then up to the clinician, who may use the SPANS manual which provides age-referenced norms and in-depth empirical and theoretical interpretative information on each subtest and index score to apply clinical knowledge, experience, and judgment to conduct a thorough assessment.

The SPANS is a flexible tool – could you explain how the test can be adapted to suit the needs of both the patient and the clinician? 

As I’ve just mentioned, the SPANS is norm-referenced to the sub-test level, so any combination of subtests can be administered and interpreted. The SPANS manual suggests 5-minute and 15-minute screening tests to simply detect the presence or absence of cognitive impairment, which are comprised of the most sensitive and specific subtests. One version of this does not even require the use of the stimulus book, but in this case the patient must not be aphasic or have language impairment. If the patient is language impaired, or visual or motor impaired, or only has the faculty of “yes” or “no” responding, the SPANS manual recommends the most useful course to design an individualised assessment that covers the domains of orientation, attention/concentration, memory/learning, conceptual flexibility, and any aspect of visuo-motor performance or language that may be possible.

You have a normative study for older adults in the pipeline – please could you tell us about that?

We are collecting about 220, mostly healthy control, older adult norms to add to our existing database of individuals above the age of 75. When this is complete, the SPANS will be re-launched and provide norms from which to interpret performances of older adults aged 75 to 89, and include findings from initial studies examining the validity of using the SPANS in this age range specifically, and for differential diagnosis of dementias generally. The validation studies will involve detailed understanding of our participants’ demographic and medical histories, ability for independent living, and co-administration of the SPANS with gold standard measures, known to be very sensitive particularly to Alzheimer’s, semantic, and multi-infarct or vascular dementias. We will examine the most useful norm stratifications in these upper age ranges, clinically, and whether the SPANS co-varies and adds more to an assessment than using traditional gold standard tests.

Are there other studies that you know of currently using the SPANS as a measure?

There are many studies under way at the moment, some with manuscripts near-ready for submission to an academic journal for peer-review, and then hopefully publication. These studies either involve examinations of the validity of using the SPANS with particular groups, or the SPANS being used to detect changes in cognition following some kind of intervention, or as a means of describing prevalence of cognitive impairment. So in addition to the older adult study under way described earlier, other group studies include English as a second language, non-Western cultural influences, children/adolescents, and learning disabilities. Further psychometrics have been carried out since the publication of the SPANS manual, and these will be published, including ROC and exploratory factor analysis. There is a study that compares the SPANS head-to-head with the RBANS for sensitivity and utility in ABI neuro-rehabilitation. The SPANS will also be used to describe the cognitive profile of long-term incarcerated individuals, and as a pre- / post- measure of vitamin treatment for individuals with poor nutrition and high alcohol intake, often homeless individuals.

Thank you Jerry!

You can find further information on the SPANS assessment here. If you would be interested in being involved in the older adults norming study Jerry mentioned, you can express your interest by emailing clinical@hogrefe.co.uk.

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