Monday, December 02, 2013

Clifton StrengthsFinder

As part of my transition into the U.S. job market, some grad school classmates (and fellow ESL colleagues) suggested I complete the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment. Frankly, whenever I hear of assessments like this (e.g. Myers-Briggs), I’m always somewhat incredulous. I cannot help but think such assessments could not possibly be able to summarize the complexity that is a human personality. However, despite my ever-present skepticism, I’m consistently shocked by how accurate the results of these types of assessments seem to be. This time was no exception.

For those of you who are as unfamiliar with the assessment as I was, here is a brief description: “The Clifton StrengthsFinder measures the presence of 34 talent themes. Talents are people's naturally recurring patterns of thought, feeling, or behavior that can be productively applied. The more dominant a theme is in a person, the greater the theme's impact on that person's behavior and performance” (strengthtest).

After obtaining an access code, I went ahead with the assessment. When finished, I was presented with a personalized summary of my five most dominant strengths along with discussion of what the results mean. According to the the assessment, my top five talents are these:

  1. Leaner
  2. Achiever
  3. Connectedness
  4. Intellection
  5. Input

I had not read through the 34 themes prior to taking the assessment, so these labels were a bit bewildering. In fact, when I first looked at the results, I thought numbers 1, 4 and 5 were essentially different sides of the same coin. The provided summaries were quite thorough, however, and as I’ve read through the materials and dialogued with those who understand the assessment well, I’ve started getting a better handle on what these mean and how they show up in my life. Just yesterday I replied to a post on Facebook and only afterwards noted that it was an excellent demonstration of connectedness.

I’ve tried to remember that these are “naturally recurring patterns of thought, feeling, or behavior.” These are essentially the ways that a person’s brain is unique and how that uniqueness allows different people to see the world differently, interact with the world differently and weave different colors into the tapestries of people’s lives. These are strengths to be tapped into, developed and expressed. I’m not yet sure how to use this awareness in my future teaching or other professional pursuits, but I’m on the journey.

I am also wondering what could happen if everyone could take this assessment. As a teacher, I want to help students discover their strengths, but I know I am limited in my own ability to personally uncover each student’s strengths, not to mention helping each student individually develop those strengths. I wonder what could happen if all students could take this assessment and receive greater insight into the strengths they already possess and could subsequently apply to their educational and career pursuits.

Imagine students not simply guessing about what they’re good at, but knowing. Imagine students thriving not because they try to do what everyone else does but because they tap into their own natural potentialities. Imagine students gaining confidence not due to the blind blind, ignorant praise of self-esteem language but rather due to seeing their strengths emerge and bloom. It could be beautiful.

Of course this all assumes the assessment’s accuracy.

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