2.2 AN EXAMPLE OF A COMPLETED REPERTORY GRID

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So, after all this, what does it look like? Let’s examine a typical grid in this

section, before going on to see how it was obtained in Chapter 3.

Figure 2.1 shows you an example of a completed repertory grid, prepared

after a 50-minute interview with a university lecturer (but it could have

been a teacher, or an industrial trainer, and so I use the generic term

‘instructor’).

Subsequent sections will tell you more about how to elicit a grid, how to make

sense of what’s in it, and how to analyse it; all in greater detail. In the

meanwhile, though, you may as well see an example of what you’re aiming to

produce, and what can be gleaned from it.

The topic deals with this instructor’s understanding of, and views on, methods

of teaching and learning.

The instructor provided nine different teaching methods as his elements

(some are more situations than methods, but you take my point). They range

from the very specific (role-plays and structured exercises) to the more general

(learning from life’s experience); from the frequently used (lectures and

tutorials) to the less common ones (company visits and overseas exchanges).

Figure 2.1 A repertory grid taken from an interview with an instructor

They cover the range of possibilities that both he as interviewee and I as

interviewer wanted to talk about, and were derived through 5 minutes of

discussion. They’re numbered 1 to 9 at the bottom right of the figure, each one

corresponding with a column in the grid.

The constructs were elicited over 30 minutes of concentrated discussion; there

they are, numbered 1 to 10 down the figure, each one corresponding to a row

of the grid. Notice how each end of each construct is shown, one on the left

and one on the right.

This instructor construes (thinks about and views) teaching methods in

terms of

. whether he can set up the learning situation by himself, or must involve

other people

. the extent to which success depends on the amount of preparation the

students have done

. how involved with the students he feels

. how well he thinks the students’ interest is captured

. how much he enjoys using the method

. where the learning comes from: specific happenings or actions, as distinct

from a less differentiated and more varied set of occurrences

. how much the method costs to use, in staffing and preparation time

. how much equipment is required

. how far the students’ emotions need to be engaged if learning is to happen

. the impact on the students in terms of time and, possibly, depth.

So now you know a little of how this instructor thinks.

How do the constructs compare with your own? Are there any surprises?

Should he have mentioned other constructs that are perfectly obvious to you?

The answer to this last question is ‘no’, by the way. The point is to understand the

instructor without laying your own views on him.What you do with the constructs you

obtain, of course, depends on your purpose. If you were in some advisory or

mentoring capacity to the instructor, you might, once you had the constructs,

discuss them, examine common ones that haven’t been mentioned and explore the

reasons why, and so forth. (This issue comes up again in Section 5.2, when we deal

with the analysis of repertory grids.)

Turning to the ratings and viewing the constructs as rating scales, we follow a

general convention that the left-hand end of the construct defines the ‘1’ end of

a 5-point scale, and the right-hand end of the construct defines the ‘5’ end of a

5-point scale. Let’s see what the instructor has to say about the lecture as a

teaching method, by reading back the ratings in column 1.

Lectures are seen as something he can prepare by himself; this received a

rating of ‘5’ on the construct ‘other people involved in preparation – I can

prepare this by myself’, where ‘other people involved in preparation’ is the ‘1’

end of that scale and ‘I can prepare this by myself’ is the ‘5’ end of that scale.

The instructor views lectures as requiring modest preparation on the part of

the students (a ‘3’ on the scale which runs from ‘succeeds even if students

haven’t prepared’ = the ‘1’ end of the scale to ‘require some preparation on the

part of the students’ = the ‘5’ end of the scale). Lectures are seen by this

instructor as putting him into a remote position with respect to students (a

rating of ‘1’ on this scale, where ‘1’ = ‘instructor can be remote from the

students’ and ‘5’ = ‘greater involvement with the students’, with the students

possibly being bored).

Reading back the ratings in the remainder of the first column, we find that he

doesn’t especially like lectures himself. He feels that learning from lectures

tends to come from specific points made; the method is, in itself, inexpensive,

and requires little equipment. The students’ emotions play little part in

learning, and he feels that the effects are not especially enduring.

Let’s practise reading back what he has to say about another of the elements:

the overseas exchange his boss has asked him to organise for students from the

next course he’s due to teach. Column 8, in fact.

Exchanges are seen as involving a fair number of other people to organise, and

a substantial amount of preparation on the part of the students, who may learn

even if somewhat separated from the lecturer, while being very interested in

what’s happening to them. He enjoys them himself, and sees them as

providing learning from a varied range of sources; they are, however,

expensive to organise and staff. Relatively little teaching equipment is

required, and success depends on emotional involvement on the part of the

students; the effects, he feels quite firmly, are likely to endure.

You might like to read back what he has to say about some of the other elements

(columns) in the grid. There’s a lot there, and you’ll find that a grid crams masses

of information into a small space. It looks as though the 50 minutes was rather

well spent in terms of what you’ve learnt about the instructor’s views!

Needless to say, your own views may differ from his – you yourself might

have provided different ratings – but that’s not the point. Now you know, in

detail, what the instructor thinks.

Constructs tell you how a person thinks. The ratings of elements on constructs

tell you what a person thinks.

This should give you an appreciation of the simplest use of a repertory grid: to

provide a simple description. How you can arrive at this description – how

you agree a topic and elements, how you elicit constructs and ratings – we’ll

look at in the next chapter, together with some more detailed guidelines on

element choice. Later on, we’ll consider the issues involved in the elicitation of

constructs from groups of people, rather than from individuals.

You can and should go beyond simple description, though, and subsequent

chapters will look at a variety of analysis techniques, for single grids, and for

sets of grids. The present chapter has just scratched the surface!