One important factor influencing learning can be the quality of communication between an instructor and student. One of the tools available for identifying individual communication style is Gregorc’s Transaction Ability Inventory (TAI). Given conflicting reports regarding the instrument’s reliability, this study explored the reliability of transaction ability inventory scores from collegiate faculty. In addition, the challenge of working with ipsative measures and the impact on reliability were highlighted.
An online version of the TAI was developed and faculty (n=124) from one college within a large comprehensive university were invited to complete the inventory. Within a week the faculty were asked to complete the inventory a second time so the reliability of the data could be examined. The reliability of the scores from each of the four style categories represented in the TAI was examined using coefficient alpha. The reliability of a differential score, which provides an indication of the extent to which the individual has a dominant communication style, was also examined with coefficient alpha.
Reliability (stability) was found to be good (coefficient alpha ranged from .78 to .96) for scores from each of the four style categories and the differential score. A key point, which potentially explains the conflicting reports in the literature, is that the ipsative (rank ordering) nature of the inventory can result in the collection of information with many errors. In this study, close examination of the data suggested that faculty often provided likert-scaled data rather than ranked data. Hence, recommendations focus on strategies to facilitate the collection of usable data.
Verification of the reliability of TAI scores enables faculty to confidently employ the inventory to assess their communication style preferences as well as those of their students. The TAI takes little time to administer and if the information is then used for self reflection, the potential for both students and faculty to make productive use of the information is considerable. A greater understanding of personal communication style preferences itself is of value. With that information, both students and faculty can potentially apply that information in ways that strengthen teaching and learning.