Assessing Inference Patterns

Assessing Inference Patterns

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0972-3.ch004


This chapter addresses the underlying form and structure of the assessment task, the purpose for each aspect of the assessment, as well as specific data and explanations regarding the DNV process. Included in this chapter are rationales for each factor of the assessment process, a diagram of the table set-up for testing, and several items that are observed during testing. This chapter also addresses some of the relationships between observed items and the performance implications of these. The assessment itself is explained in terms of Davis’s category items of sequence, intensity, and duration, as well as the action components (varying and repeating) and the patterns of actions that these take on for each style.
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To those engaging in the assessment task, the Davis Non-Verbal Assessment (DNV) of Relational Thinking Styles (RTS) seems to be a simple, hands-on process. It is undergone by providing participants with junky and unrelated materials such as dried beans, macaroni, metal, scraps of fabric, sandpaper, etc. A trained observer then codes the specific actions by which an individual manipulates (or declines to manipulate) these materials. The purpose of providing a simple, hands-on assessment is to enable the capture of a start-to-finish process from which we can observe how someone:

  • 1.

    Discerns among options when beginning and proceeding to perform an open-ended task (the Discerning function).

  • 2.

    Makes selections and rejections in the course of engaging with that task to develop (or fail to develop) a goal (the Goal-Setting function).

  • 3.

    Proceeds in the production of that goal until deciding that the task is complete (the Problem-Solving function).

Although most people who undergo the DNV believe that starting, doing, and completing points are necessary and obvious, they are only so to the person undergoing the assessment. The manner in which people perform at each of these stages combines to produce a clear indication of their thinking/inferencing style.

As background for the chapter, we address the purpose underlying the form and structure of the assessment task. (Validation issues are addressed in Chapter 9, which also explains and builds upon the semiotic structure underlying these inferencing patterns, since this structure relates to the reliability and validity of the assessment.)

The primary objective of this chapter is to provide explanations of the rationale underlying the DNV process, as well as a description of the actual assessment process, and some of the items on the observation guide as they relate to characteristic behaviors of different style patterns.



Why Use a Non-Verbal Assessment of Thinking Styles?

Recent research by neurologists such as William Calvin (1996) and Frank Wilson (1999) argue for non-verbal brain-body connections in thought. In his book The Hand, Wilson (1999), describes the work of another researcher, psychologist Patricia Greenfield:

Professor Greenfield reviewed her own long experience observing children as they work on hand-oriented problems—eating (or just playing) with spoons, stacking blocks, nesting cups, or copying geometric patterns of sticks. She proposed that the human brain organizes and oversees the child’s interactions with objects almost exactly the same way it organizes and oversees the production of speech. These two specific skills (manipulating objects and manipulating words), and the developmental chronology associated with the child’s mastery of those skills, proceed in such transparently parallel fashion that the brain must be: (a) applying the same logic or procedural rules to both; and (b) using the same anatomic structures as it does so (pp. 164-165).

In this same sense, the DNV appears to identify motor processes that parallel formal inferencing types, applying the same logic or procedural rules to the making of habitual inferences as apply to the making of formal inferences. Whether the same anatomic structures will be found in the human brain for both has yet to be determined, though it seems reasonable to hypothesize that there may be such a connection.

As an interesting aside, Ellen Dissanayake, writer and lecturer on the subject of evolutionary aesthetics, argues for the primacy of art as an expression of early cognition (Dissanayake, 1992, pp. 87-88) and provides an intriguing hypothesis that early cognition developed from a non-verbal, feeling-based aesthetic sense. Her contention resonates with Davis’s choice of an open-ended craft project as the basis of her non-verbal assessment of RTS.

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