10 Surveys for Self-discovery, Starting Discussions, or Getting to Know Learners

I realize that many personality inventories and similar surveys have their limitations. For one thing, most of them depend upon self-reporting, so dishonesty or simply a lack of awareness about oneself can get in the way.  Even if the responses are honest and accurate, the tool itself has limitations. A single inventory doesn’t offer a complete picture of a person, and with many inventories, what it tells you may well change over time.  Nonetheless, they can still serve as fun and interesting ways to learn about yourself and others.  They also work as useful discussion starters among friends, co-learners, and colleagues; giving one another a chance to learn how to work well together, how to best support one another, and how to maximize one another’s strengths.  Toward that end, here are ten such surveys or inventories to consider.  Some are built upon and rooted in research and a particular theory. Others are less formal, but the categories can give new ways of looking at oneself and others.

1. The Bartle Test of Game Player Psychology – Are you a killer, achiever, explorer, or collaborator?  According to the designers of this tool, each game player has a dominant motivation that is tied to one of these four categories. The description of each will help you understand it better, but I happen to find this one helpful as I think about designing learning environments, considering how I might include elements that meet the needs and interests of these different types of gamers.

2. The Five Love Languages – This is the name of a book by Gary Chapman, and it is based upon the idea that we each understand love in different ways.  For some, they feel loved when people do acts of service for them? For others, they desire words of affirmation, physical touch, gifts or quality time together.  Of course, we often try to show others that we love them using our dominant love language rather than the other person’s, which can cause a disconnect.  What happens if your dominant love language is acts of service but your son’s is quality time?  How do you make sure that each person experiences love in their own language?  You get the idea.  While this is about love and I first learned about it to think about the relationship between spouses, I don’t see why it can’t offer insights in how to care for friends, colleagues and others as well.

3. Clifton Strengthsfinder – I’m not sure if there is a free version of this one. I think you need to buy the book and then you get access to the online inventory.  This one is based upon the idea that each person has certain strengths and that people are most effective (and often happier) when they focus upon using and building upon their strengths and not always trying to remedy limitations or weaknesses.  The accompanying book is rich with information about what you can do with your strengths and how you can work with people who have different strengths.

4. The Authentic Happiness Questionnaires – This site has over a dozen questionnaires. My understanding is that they are all connected to positive psychology and the idea that a sense of well-being comes from experiencing positive emotion, engagement, positive relationships, meaning, and accomplishment (PERMA).  The questionnaires focus on all sorts of things: depression, optimism, gratitude, grit, etc.

5. Narcissistic Personality Quiz – Many people argue that narcissism is growing as a result of the increasing ability to get everything on our terms in the digital world.  I’m not sure about whether it is on the rise, but this informal quiz might make for a good discussion starter about the subject.

6. The VARK Questionnaire – This is a popular learning style inventory that can serve as a fun and interesting ice-breaker for learners and a tool for getting to know one’s learners.  Yes, I realize that the learning style concept has been challenged and is in question in many ways, especially when it comes to whether designing environments based upon learning styles actually does anything to improve learning.  And yet, learning and thinking about how we learn does help cultivate self-reflection and self-awareness, both of which can be helpful for learners as they try to learn how to learn.  This can also be a way to cultivate shared ownership among a group of people and it can help one to think about building multi-sensory learning experiences.

7. Study Skills Inventory – Do your current strategies help you to be successful in formal learning environments?  This short survey seeks to provide some insight into that question, and it might serve as a good discussion starter about student success and what habits successful students cultivate.

8. What is Your Educational Philosophy? Are you an essentialist, perennialist, progressivist, social reconstructivist, existentialist, or some sort of combination? This survey from McGraw Hill will help you figure that out.  Of course, you might need to do a little reading to understand the meaning of those terms.  This is a great discussion starter for educators and those interested in conversations about education reform. Learning a bit more about where each other comes from can provide valuable insights on how to proceed in those conversations.

9. Digital Literacy Survey – This one takes 5-10 minutes to complete, but it provides some helpful feedback on your digital literacy.  This works as a useful self-assessment to guide ongoing personal and professional development, but it could also be a great discussion starter or a tool to help you get to know the strengths and limitations of a group of co-learners.

10. Information Literacy Survey – This one comes from DeSales University and it is targeted for undergraduate college students, assessing their ability to leverage databases and other resources for research. It provides some good feedback to the rest of us as well.

There are many other similar surveys, questionnaires, quizzes and self-assessments that are freely available on the web.  Of course, you can also create your own.  Whatever the case, I offer this list as a starting point for exploring how such tools might add a little interest and self-reflection to a learning community.

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About Bernard Bull

Dr. Bernard Bull is an author, professor of education, Vice Provost of Curriculum and Academic Innovation, podcast host, and blogger. Some of his books include Missional Moonshots: Insights and Inspiration for Educational Innovation, What Really Matters: Ten Critical Issues in Contemporary Education, The Pedagogy of Faith (editor), Adventures in Self-Directed Learning, and Digitized: Spiritual Implications of Technology. He is passionate about futures in education; educational innovation; and social entrepreneurship.