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Critical Review of Reliability and Validity of John Holland’s Test: Self-Directed Search

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The theory developed by John Holland involving self directed search has made major contributions to the career counseling profession. His emphasis on the interaction between an individual and the environment has been taken in high regards especially amongst scholars and practitioners in education psychology. Essentially, self assessment implies that an individual learn more about him/herself in various areas including likes, dislikes, and different reactions to the different situation.

Holland believed that knowledge of the self attributes was important in determining the occupation and work situation that could be best suited for the respective individual. This paper shall critically look at John Holland’s self directed search model in analyzing individuals. Self-Directed Search: The self-directed search (SDS) is considered as a guide to booth education and career planning. The concept was developed by Dr. John Holland in early 1970s but has undergone various transformation and modification at the hands of revisionists.

Essentially, the SDS is based on how individuals make their choices in careers emphasizing on how individuals learn about themselves and the choices they make in life concerning education and careers. Holland classified people broadly into six categories which included Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional better known as RIASEC. Holland made descriptions of each of the six categories of individuals unique from each other (Sidiropoulou-Dimakakou, Mylonas & Argyropoulou, 2008).

To Holland, the Realistic individuals prefer realistic careers in their lives including, auto-mechanic, aircraft controller, surveyor, electricians, and farming. These individuals possess mechanical and athletic capabilities preferring to work outdoors and with tools and machines. Holland asserts that the Realistic individuals prefer working with other things other than fellow humans. They are described as having high regard for conformity, frank, honest, humble, hard-headed, natural, practical, and genuine among other attributes.

The ‘Investigative’ types are those individuals who have a liking for investigative careers such as biologists, chemists, anthropologists, medical technicians, and geologists among other investigative careers. Holland was of the view that this category of individuals has high science and mathematic abilities and prefers working alone to solve issues. They also have a liking for exploring and understanding events as opposed to persuading others. They are described as analytical, cautious, and complex critical, independent, introverts, and full of intellectual capabilities.

Artistic individuals prefer artistic careers like composing, being a musician, stage director, dancing, acting, and doing writing jobs. These kinds of individuals are said to have good imagination and enjoys creating original work. They like working with creative ideas and self-expression compared to routines and regulations. Their character is said to be complicated, disorderly, expressive, imaginative, impractical, independent and emotional among other attributes (Sidiropoulou-Dimakakou, Mylonas & Argyropoulou, 2008).

Social people on the other hand have a liking for social careers including teaching, speech therapist, counseling, nursing, clinical psychology and social work practice. This type of individuals enjoys being in company of other people and are interested in how individuals get along. They also enjoy helping individuals who are facing problems in life and prefers giving aid to other people other than engaging in mechanical or technical activities. They possess various attributes including being convincing, cooperative, generous, friendly, kind, sympathetic, social, and understanding among others.

The enterprising individuals are described as having a liking for careers such as sports promoter, television production, salesperson, business executive, supervision, and managerial among others. They usually have leadership and public speaking skills. Their main interest is money and politics and they have a tendency to influence others. They generally enjoy persuading and directing other people as opposed to working on scientific and complex issues. They are described as adventurous, ambitious, optimistic, self confident, domineering, extroverts, and pleasure-liking.

Lastly, the conventional category of individuals are those who prefer conventional careers including bookkeeping, financial analysts, bankers, tax experts, and secretarial jobs. Such individuals prefer following orderly routines and meeting clearly defined standards. They are described as being conscientious, obedient, practical, persistent, conforming, and careful and lack imaginativeness. The RIASEC model is used in describing the areas that an individual’s personal interests are most inclined (Sidiropoulou-Dimakakou, Mylonas & Argyropoulou, 2008).

The Validity and Reliability of Holland’s vocational theorem: Holland developed what has come to be referred to as the vocational choice theory which is part of the wider Personal-Environmental Fit theory which established a linkage between careers and the personality orientations. Holland was of the view that individual’s needs, traits, competence, and interests played a great part in determining their careers (Robinson, & Betz, 2008).

Vocational choice theory holds that an individual’s career choice is usually based on the individual’s anticipated job satisfaction from working in a given field and the personality type is linked to the most satisfying job career (Haynie, Hartman, & Lundberg, 2007). Basically, the person-environment fit (P-E Fit) provides for an association between the individual’s characteristics and their job environment which is meant to bring about positive outcomes for both the individual and the organization (Gottfredson, & Duffy, 2008).

Many studies have been conducted on the reliability and validity of the vocational theory as advanced by Holland with critics claiming that this model adopts a static view. Thus in this model, stable aspects of the individual and the environment is the main point of focus. In scientific studies, the P-E Fit can only be assessed at a given point in time when the job choice decision has been made or at a point later on when the individual’s tenure at the organization has been analyzed (Gottfredson, & Duffy, 2008).

Critics have therefore called for dynamism in the P-E Fit theories to make it more plausible. This was in the realization that both individuals and their environments are dynamic in an effort to attain the ‘Fit’. Either the individuals may adjust their environments or themselves to fit well, or jobs are bound to change over time which may result in changes in the correspondence between the individual and the environment (Arnold, 2004). The theory of work adjustment (TWA) is an alternative to the vocational theory by Holland emphasizing on correspondence of the individuals with their environments.

This is a dynamic approach to the P-E Fit and contrasts the Holland’s theoretical framework which assumed that both the individuals and the environment are stable. TWA acknowledges that there is more dynamism in the ongoing process in which the individual and the environment interact with one another (Sekiguchi, 2004). It has also to been observed that there is controversy regarding what is referred to as ‘Fit’ in this scenario. Fit may be just but one of the many factors that influences individual satisfaction and productivity.

Also, the employees and the organization may be harboring different aims and that what the congruency that promote employee satisfaction may not be provided by the organization. Fit is defined in static terms but individuals and job environment do change and this definitely impact on the ‘fit’ (Arnold, 2004). Holland’s RIASEC model also neglects a very important aspect that is involved in vocational career success. Stability which is an essential trait variable has been neglected in Holland’s model, and yet this trait can have far reaching impacts on the person-job congruence, productivity, and satisfaction.

Stability was emphasized in the Big Five Model and analysts think that the two models can be used concurrently as they supplement one another in various ways (Robinson, & Betz, 2008). Holland’s model has also been criticized as it failed to adopt a cross-cultural approach. The RIASEC was developed in a sophisticated post-industrial society where the economy is characterized by complex jobs and therefore this cannot be applied to the less developed world in its form. The main problem lies in the psychometric attributes of the instruments which might have been carefully tested.

In most instances, cross-cultural studies have been ad-hoc and not theoretically guided in the area. Systematic differences ought to be tested using different methods. It is important to note that the very nature of ‘fit’ may be varied when individualistic and collective societies are analyzed. Conclusion: The self-directed search as advanced by John Holland was the culmination of scholarly work after various studies that led to coming up of the RIASEC model in vocational choice theory.

This contribution cannot be wished away but what is important is the recognition that Holland’s work reflected the needs of the time. He aspired to address some of the observable issues that were happening in the society at that particular time. Though this formed the fundamental basis upon which other works would be based, it failed to address the cross-cultural aspect and the ever-changing aspect of the personal and environmental relationship. The theoretical framework was static and failed to address the issues in other societies especially those of the third world.

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