ISKO Italy Open conference systems, Paradigms and conceptual systems in KO

Postmodernism, constructivism and KO: applications of repertory grid to knowledge construction and representation

José Antonio Frías, Rosa San Segundo Manuel, Críspulo Travieso

Building: Main building
Room: Hall VI
Date: 2010-02-24 12:00 PM – 12:30 PM
Last modified: 2010-02-05


[Submitted condensed paper]

The term "constructivism" is nowadays coming into fashion in the field of psychology. It has been successfully adopted in a postmodern o post-rationalist age, characterized by the decline of the main rationalist theoretical systems, like psychoanalysis and behaviorism. Psychology has been gradually recovering the focus point on the people, on their life experiences and meanings, and it does not consider them anymore as just objects with instincts or conditioning factors, but granting them with the right for expression. That is how discursive psychology have been recently emerged, as an attempt to capture the essence of the personal meanings through different forms of constructing personal narratives.  

The use of theories and methodological tools from other disciplines has enabled the progress of knowledge organization research over time. Among the various contributions of psychology to KO research it should be pointed the George Kelly´s Theory of Personal Constructs and its related technique of repertory grid. As Kelly stated, events which people and their behavior get involved with must be understood as personal constructs and explanations of how they manage with their world.

Essentially, the grid of personal constructs consists of a data matrix with three basic components. First, the columns covered the elements, which constitute a representative sample of people, events, situations or object in a given domain of experience of each individual. The rows of the matrix covered the bipolar dimensions that the individual uses for making sense of the different elements from the columns. These bipolar dimensions constitute the personal constructs, and they are elicited from the analysis of similarities and differences between the elements. Finally, in the boxes formed by intersections of columns and rows, every element of the personal construct is rated.

The repertory grid, due to its application way and its theoretical fundamentals, it is more comparable to a structured interview than to a traditional psychometric test. This feature, besides of its flexibility, its mathematical power and its phenomenological fundamentals, allows to considerer it as a very useful evaluation form in the psychologist practice, since it serves to build considerably sophisticated maps of the clients' world in their own terms.  

Until the mid-60s of last century, the repertory grid was applied mainly in the field of clinical psychology, and from then on it became more usual to use it in other fields, including the KO. In this area the existing contributions are quite limited, as a consequence of a lack of knowledge of this technique.   

The main aim of this work is to spread and promote the use of the repertory grid in KO research, reviewing its basic characteristics and identifying its applications through a literature review for the period 1980-2007. This study is organized into four parts. The first describes the structure and characteristics of the repertory grid. The second presents the results and their analysis. The third deals with the methodology used. Finally, the fourth part presents the conclusions, limitations of the study and some of the possible future researches.