The role of personality traits and The Big Five in predicting future success of interior design students
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Determining a student’s potential is a serious endeavor in higher education. In this high stakes decision-making, most programs utilize a combination of assessment measures to obtain a full picture of the candidate student. In programs where only a limited number of slots are available, this selection process becomes particularly important. This process is based on the underlying assumption that academic units want to select the students who will be the most “successful” or who will succeed, given their conceptions success. Historically, admissions criteria have encompassed a narrow definition and set of tools, even when program or department mission statements included a broad range of student learning goals (Camara, 2005).
In the past 20 years, there has been a large body of research that demonstrates the validity of personality measures in predicting job performance criteria (Judge, Higgins, Thorensen, & Barrick, 1999). Researchers have also shown that personality measures predict academic criteria such as GPA and absenteeism (Paunonen & Nicol, 2001). Empirical support has been shown for the Big Five model as a theoretical framework for the study of personality in different settings and populations (Costa & McCrae, 1994; Digman, 1997). The five personality factors are: 1) Neuroticism—level of stability versus instability, 2) Extraversion—tendency to be assertive, sociable, and energetic 3) Openness—disposition to be curious, open to new situations, and imaginative, 4) Agreeableness—disposition to be cooperative, and supportive, and 5) Conscientiousness—disposition toward purposeful, determined, and goal-directed behavior.
The focus of this study is to analyze a set of personality measures in predicting college success in an undergraduate interior design program at a large Midwestern university in the United States. The criterion measure used to define success in college is the student’s cumulative grade point average. This study is important for several reasons. First, there is limited current research on admissions criteria assessment for interior design programs. Second, because of the nature of design and the design student, these programs must not fall back on criteria and research that is not domain specific and does not holistically look at the candidate student. Lastly, admissions decisions are high-stakes decisions that should have a transparent and rigorous process, where the admission criteria are consistent with the program’s mission and vision. This is a responsibility to the students, their parents, and to society as a whole.