The aim of this paper is to study a research performed in the University of Turku on the topic of psychology students’ self-assessment of their professional skills. In this context, the course of the research is analysed. The correlation between the research method and results is viewed in terms of influence of study method on the validity of gained results, and implication of these results in wider settings and potential replication of the research in under other circumstances. Further on, a couple of research ideas inspired by this research shall be outlined. Finally, the impact of research on lives of ordinary people will be also described.
Key words: psychology, skills, competence, self-assessment, the University of Turku.
In the academic world, there are various reasons for research conduct. It often happens that initial motives and objectives turn to be vague in comparison to results and the whole research might be interpreted in entirely different way. Thus, from the point of knowledge accumulation, it is not enough to conduct research and to fit the results into needed objectives; the results should be verified and cross-checked in order to gain valid information and subsequent trustworthy knowledge.
The aim of the present research paper is to study a research conducted in the University of Turku concerning psychology students’ self-assessment of their professional skills. In this context, the course of the research shall be analysed. In this context, the correlation between the research method and subsequent results shall be viewed from the point of influence of study method on the validity of gained results, and implication of these results in wider settings and potential replication of the research in under other circumstances. Further on, a couple of research ideas inspired by this research shall be outlined. The impact of the research on the lives of ordinary people will be also described.
The research described in the article aimed at exploration of “how reliable psychology students assessed their professional skills and knowledge” (Tiuraniemi Juhani et al., 2008, p. 267 ). The chosen groups of student, belonging to different years of study, 117 in total were asked to do a self-assessment in various spheres of psychology through a questionnaire. This questionnaire consisted of two parts – first theoretical referred to identification of various groups of skills like clinical skills, application skills and research skills. The students were required to evaluate their skills according to score of 100 standing for proper psychologists and zero for new ones. The second part referred to the problem resolution tasks which were represented by two cases: family and working environment. While the first part was evaluated by an appropriate computer program and was basically mechanical, statistical result; the second part was evaluated by independent evaluators who did not know which description belonged to which group and individual. Thus, the main method of the research conduct was the use of the questionnaire as a rating means for the topic exploration.
The chosen method of research conduct might have various implications on the results interpretation. First of all, use of the questionnaire is beneficiary in quantification of the studied topic. In other words, the evolution of psychological skills was shown in percentages of answers in various groups differing in the year if study. In this context, strictly statistical way of data processing provides exact proves of the poses objectives or certain quantifiable results. For instance, the research showed that in the beginner group, the mean of self-assessment was 20.0, in the intermediate – 45.0 and in the advanced group 81.8 (Tiuraniemi Juhani et al., 2008, p.274). This shows that with each year of study, the level of students’ competence was rising. Thus, the use of quantitative, statistical evaluations provided objective (numerical) result and subsequent interpretation.
The bipartite structure of the questionnaire, meaning the combination of exact and problem-resolving open questions contributed to the balance of quantitative-qualitative analysis of the topic. In this context, opinion of the specialist and their subsequent analysis of the data received contributed to evaluation of the unquantifiable aspect of the research. In this context, balance of analysis was to be achieved. In this regard, the objectivity was achieved through anonymity of the studied responses, which is definitely a plus of this research.
On the other hand, irrespective of the proved benefits of the used method of this research conduct, it has certain limitations. The first limitation would be a lack of the established connection between the found data and actual assumption sit was meant to prove. In other words, irrespective of the findings showing that with each year of studies students’ self-assessment competence was rising and skills improvement and diversity were improving, the research could not explore the existence of those connections and their nature (Tiuraniemi Juhani et al., 2008). In this regard, it can be argued that this method of research serves as an initial stage of exploration of the topic, which should be further improved. Thus, it can be argued that complex knowledge in the studied fled would require a more substantial research, involving interdisciplinary approach to the research conduct.
The main issue of the chosen method is the validity of results. The issue is not simply in statistic approach or questions asked, the potential source of misinterpretation and miscalculation might be the participants themselves. In this context, objectivity of students in their accomplishment would have been of high importance. In this regard, such matter as self-criticism and understanding of one’s’ limits are crucial, but unquantifiable and unpredictable. Thus, one of the limitations of the research and subsequent validity of data should be trustworthiness of the answer given in the questionnaire. One of the potential ways of data improvement and results cross-verification would be the case when the theoretical data from the questionnaire were cross-verified by a practical and observatory one from the realm of qualitative approach. In this regard, the outcome would be more complex, systematic and thus more valid.
Taking into consideration the mentioned above limitations of the research and narrow geographical scope of the research, the application of the results to the different settings and the wider population are quite questionable. In this context, the problem would have been the lack of constant structure of the research, which would not be case-oriented. In other words, the research was conducted within a single program and with different groups of students at different years of study. For validation and systematisation of the collected data and development of unified methodological framework applicable for wider public, more research within different programs and longitudinal perspective is required (Tiuraniemi Juhani et al., 2008). In this context, is meant that having results for a certain group within a certain program without any reference in results or data into wider public and subsequent cross-verification and proving of findings cannot provide valid results and cannot be duplicated in terms of the same expectations and objectives of the research.
Another inconsistency of the research is its purpose and findings. Although the general aim of the research was proved, one aspect of the posed issue remained quite vague: “how reliably psychology students assess their skills” (Tiuraniemi Juhani et al., 2008, p. 267 ). In this context, although authors have showed how students assess their competence and how its changed in different years’ groups, they did not show how reliable students have assessed their skills. The reliability of the assessment although posed in the beginning of the research was not proved in its course. Irrespective of these conclusions, the research remains quite useful and advanced in its sphere.
This research has contributed to triggering of new research topic and thus resulted in further development of the academic research in the chosen area of psychology. In this context, there are three ideas of the future research, which this article has inspired. First of all, it would be interesting to explore how phases of therapist/counsellor development differ between psychologists and sociologists. In other words, how students/specialist, that target individual perspective, would differ from those who study society and sociological phenomena. First of all, comparative research would have to be conducted and then interpretative research concerning conditionality of such results would be necessary.
Secondly, it would be quite experimental to make a questionnaire about which skills students of each year of study consider being the most crucial in their professional development and compare the same findings with the same questionnaire conducted between lecturers and practical psychologists. This type of research would show the difference in comprehension of the study process in psychology and actual professional interpretation of the required skills development. In its turn, this research would contribute to an improvement of the study program and further skills development.
The third idea is in conduct of empirical research on the same topic, but using experiment as the main method. The objectives of the research would have been the same, but means different – more empirical, until certain extent, the aim of the research would be to cross-verify the data collected from the previous research. The practical side would be a conduct of actual counselling or at least gathering of information about a client by students of different years of study. Such experience would show which skills students require and how fast they can apply them in practice.
As a conclusion, it can be argued that the findings of the discussed research would still have an impact on the lives of everyday people. First of all, it would contribute to improvement of the training programs for psychologists and subsequent improvement of their skills. More effective preparation of the psychologist would result in a better quality of their practice and subsequent positive effect for their patients – wider public. Although the benefits of this research to wider public are indirect, they still would trigger a chain reaction which would finally benefit everyone and the whole society in general.
On the other hand, looking on the research from another perspective, this article might contribute to people’s better understanding of the study process and subsequent evolution of skills from year to year based on self-confidence and self-criticism. Thus, people would be able to see how human ability to build oneself can change with new knowledge gained and how human overview changes with time and intellectual training. Thus, this research is of both psychological and general human meanings. As any research or experiment, it aims not only at proving a posed hypothesis, but also at triggering an unconditional and curious though of an individual or humanity in general. In this context, the research gives a basis for further exploration of the topic. The question is how much a researcher or wider public wants to know.
Tiuraniemi Juhani, Hatakka Mika and Keskinen Esko (2008). Psychology students’ self- assessment of their professional skills: A Finnish Case. Nordic Psychology, 60 (4), 267-282.