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The Task Approach Preferences Inventory

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The TAPI has been designed to identify a candidates preferred way of approaching tasks based on the ideas of Learning Styles. It is divided into eight scales, each probing different aspects of the candidates approach to tasks, sources of energy, ways of coping and styles of problem-solving and decision-making. It can be used to help tailor course delivery or improve the fit between the candidate and their working environment and is web-delivered.

Primarily it is used within FE, HE and by training providers or larger employers as part of their total skills programmes or recruitment drives. The TAPI can be used can help to determine how a candidates learning styles fit within their peer group. Whether this be other members of their chosen course or other employees working in similar job roles. It allows you to evaluate the fit between a profile you choose and the learning styles of the particular candidate.

Profiles are typically built by testing groups of existing candidates who are already on a training course or working within a similar job role. For example, profiles can be built for existing high-flyers, the average and those who are not performing well.

The TAPI is divided into eight scales, each probing different aspects of the candidate’s approach to tasks, sources of energy, ways of coping and styles of problem-solving and decision-making.

In order to make sense of each individual’s scores on the eight sub-scales, each score should be looked at in comparison to the upper and lower scores of the norm group. However, it must be noted that the value of the individual’s scores when compared to the group will vary, depending on the scores of the chosen comparison group. Thus, comparisons to a norm group of high achievers in particular aspects of a job will differ from comparisons to a group made up people who are not performing well.

This inventory has not been designed to suggest that scores closer to average are better than high or low scores. The eight scales need to be considered as four pairs that compare constructs on two sides of a continuum:

Action-Oriented

 

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Thoughtful Observer

Externally Energised

 

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Internally Energised

Inner Anxiety

 

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Outward Irritability

Other Regulated

 

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Self Regulated

These should not, however, be thought of as opposites. The scores are thus represented separately, rather than as a single point between the poles, because adults modulate their behaviour in different contexts, and make choices about their responses that can draw from either position in each pair. Much will depend on the preferred mode of response for the job at hand. For example, if the job requires trouble-shooting and quick responses to problem-solving, a high score in ‘action-oriented’ would be preferable. On the other hand, a job analyst who is assessing the human-system interface is likely need to have a high score on ‘thoughtful observer’. It may be possible for mature and self-controlled people to work in both modes, if that is what a job requires. The value of the TAPI is that a norm group of the scores of individuals who perform their job roles successfully can be constructed. This enables a candidate’s preferred mode of approaching tasks to be compared to such a group.

Because this is a self-report inventory, it must also be remembered that individual scores are also dependant on the level of self-insight and honesty of the respondents. It is therefore possible that instead of answering frankly, the individual might try to ‘fake good’, in order to make a good impression. To do this, a respondent tries to imagine what the test constructor or selector might be looking for, and skews their scores accordingly. However, one of the benefits of this inventory is that it is quite difficult for respondents to guess what we are looking for. In addition, the nature of different work roles is that the resultant norm groups will have different profiles on the TAPI.

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Sub-Scale Definitions

 

 

 

Action
Oriented
(AO)

 

This is similar to ‘activist’ or ‘concrete’ scales in other learning style inventories. It indicates individual preferences for responding to a stimulus and for planning and organising activities. High scores indicate individuals who like to be active and, as a consequence, such individuals might not plan carefully or think through what they are doing. Low scores indicate individuals who may hesitate before acting and who like clearly planned and organised activities.

 

 

 

Thoughtful
Observer
(TO)

 

This is similar to ‘reflective’ and ‘theorist’ scales in other inventories. It indicates the degree to which an individual likes to plan activities before acting. High scores would indicate individuals who like to watch events unfold and others’ responses before deciding on a response. These individuals do not like to be rushed on tasks and need time for decision-making.

 

 

 

Externally
Energised
(EE)

 

This is similar to the extrovert category on other inventory scales. It indicates the degree to which a person gains energy from interactions with others. High scores indicate individuals who are likely to be active in discussions and enjoy working in groups with others. Such individuals find it difficult to work alone on tasks for long periods of time.

 

 

 

Internally
Energised
(IE)

 

This is similar to the introvert category on other inventories. It indicates the degree to which an individual gains energy from internal sources. High scores indicate individuals who prefer to have time on their own and draw from their own ideas in responding to tasks. They may find it difficult to work with others and may be reluctant to participate in group discussions.

 

 

 

Inner
Anxiety
(IA)

 

This scale is an indicator of how anxious an individual feels at certain times. High scores indicate individuals who are nervous when approaching tasks and who may need support and reassurance. As students, these persons may need help and guidance before tests and exams.

 

 

 

Outward
Irritability
(OI)

 

This scale is an indicator of the degree to which an individual ascribes difficulties to external or outside causes. High scores indicate individuals who express angry responses readily and may have difficulty exercising self-control.

 

 

 

Other
Regulated
(OR)

 

This scale probes some aspects of extrinsic motivation. It indicates the degree to which rewards and affirmation from the outside impact on an individual’s performance. High scores indicate individuals who benefit from encouragement and affirmation from others and tangible rewards.

 

 

 

Self
Regulated
(SR)

 

This scale considers aspects of intrinsic motivation. It indicates the degree to which an individual is self-motivated. High scores indicate individuals who seek personal meaning in tasks.

 

 

 

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