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25 Projective Techniques for Training and Coaching

By Guest Authors: Aleksandra Petrova and Adrià Balcázar Castell

Organization: Board of European Students of Technology

 As coaches, creating a comfortable environment that enables authentic client expression is essential. However, when interacting with others, many struggle with vulnerability and expressing their innermost thoughts and emotions.

This blog post will focus on different projective techniques to help you explore your client's experiences and have more meaningful talks.

To guide you through this process, we have the expertise of our guest authors and accomplished Soft Skill Trainers Alex and Adri. With their extensive experience and insights, this article was written to help you create deep connections and have meaningful conversations.


Summary

Projective techniques, also called projective methods, is a term that encompasses any activity or procedure designed to increase insight into individuals thoughts by allowing them to respond freely to ambiguous stimuli (cards, dice, drawings, music, etc.). The underlying assumption is that, when faced with unstructured or ambiguous stimuli, people will reveal aspects of their personality in their attempt to structure the material. During the session participants will get familiar with ways of using a variety of methods in training, in which context, and how to get creative in the activities they use in their sessions.


What are Projective Techniques?

Projective techniques are techniques that offer a relatively unstructured task to prompt the learner to assign meaning to a stimulus.

In training, this entails using an ambiguous or vaguely defined stimulus and asking for a somewhat unrestricted response. In the process of assigning meaning to the stimulus, the learner may clarify or express their thoughts or emotions, connect to an experience or share complex ideas.

The term originally comes from psychology and we have adapted it in the training setting. The aim in the training setting is in no way to use the methods to obtain information about the personality of the learner nor to study them in any way or form.

The idea behind using such techniques is to enhance the training experience for the learners and offer a tool that can help them clarify or express their thoughts or emotions, connect to an experience or share complex ideas better.


Classification of Projective Techniques

Although many of the projective techniques can be used with different goals in mind here we classify them according to the action that the learner needs to do when using the projective

In each of the categories we have added some tools that can be used as examples. Note that many tools can be used inside more than one category, hence the examples should be taken as such, and not a classification of tools. Please keep in mind that this is not the final list and your creativity here is more than welcome.

Completion

Completion methods aim at presenting the learner with some type of incomplete product, with the requirement that they complete it in any manner they wish and the restriction that the completions meet certain standards of good form or rationality.

Hangman

This is a very simple game that many of us have used as kids to guess words. One way of using it is, when encountering a lot of theory that contains categories or concepts, instead of just presenting each, to keep the learners active by having them guess what the concept that you are about to present may be.

Avatar

An example of using an avatar: The learner is presented with a simple drawn structure that they need to complete into a representation of their experience with the topic, or their perception of the topic. It’s a nice way to get an insight into what their perceptions, doubts, fear etc. may be without having to ask them specific questions which they may feel uncomfortable with.

Sentence starter

Yet another tool that can be used to make understanding or presenting theory easier. It can also be used to give learners a prompt for which they can share something more personal such as an experience. An example sentence for that can be: The last time I had to present in front of an audience…This tool also can simplify understanding the goal of the activity with the sentence starter telling the learning exactly what they need to say or write.

Construction

Construction methods require the learner to go beyond simple association to a stimulus and to create or construct a more elaborate product, which can be a complete art form, such as a story or picture.

Story Cubes

A great tool to spark some inspiration in learners for creating a story. If multiple cubes are available each cube can serve as a different purpose in the story such as: the protagonist, the location, the action and so on.

Drawing

Here learners are given a task into expressing visually a prompt given to them by the trainer/facilitator/coach. If you use drawing with the aim of construction, keep in mind that the product matters, so once obtaining the stimuli ask for information that is visibly seen in the drawing: there is a reason why they have decided to put a certain shape or line in the drawing. This differs from drawing in the expression category which is mentioned below.

Pictures of vague scenes

They can be used for creating stories, to spark inspiration for the creation of it such as using information contained in the image: the place, the character etc. A story can also be created by using the response of the learner. This response can be the emotions they are sensing by seeing it, the atmosphere they notice, their interpretation of the card(s), etc.

Order / Choice

Choice or ordering techniques require the learner to choose from a number of alternative items or create an arrangement that fits some specified criterion, such as meaningfulness, relevance, or attractiveness.

Box of objects

Presenting a learner with a box of objects can be used for both order or choice. This can be a nice way for the learner to activate the touch sense. It’s an interesting way of getting your learners to interact with them as well if the objects are related to the theme of the event or session.

Dixit cards, Postcards, Picture arrangement

The learner here is often given a selection of Dixit cards, Postcards or Pictures to answer a question. They can either make a decision based on them identifying with the card/image or by having a response to the card/image. Asking about why they made that choice is important here.

In terms of ordering multiple pictures can also be given to a learner for them to arrange and express through them, for example if the learner had just gone through an emotional exercise, the tool can be used in debriefing for them to express how their emotions changed as the exercise flowed.

Dobble

This is a kid's game which contains cards with small images that are simple. Here the learner can be asked to make a choice of only one item after being given a prompt.

Jigsaw

Jigsaws can be used for achieving the order aspect of this category. The solved image on the puzzle itself can be used as the prompt, however keep in mind to aim at that being ambiguous or vaguely defined. Alternatively each puzzle piece can have a prompt itself and then the learner can be the one deciding which order they follow when reacting to the prompts, after which they can assemble the puzzle.

Expression

An expression tool places as much emphasis upon the manner and style of the product, or even more, than on the output itself. Expression is largely about opening gateways for self-awareness, reflection and sharing, hence the special importance of keeping a judgement-free atmosphere when using these tools. Stressing out the importance of the process, and removing pressure off the product, may be critical to learners buying into the activity when they are shy or not confident in their skill in the chosen expression tool.

Drawing

Just prompting the learners to draw will allow for a very different learning process to the verbal ones of speaking and writing. Some learners may overcome verbal impediments to express themselves more freely. The process of drawing can also elicit a deeper reflection, as it gives the time and space to process thoughts differently than one would in a conversation. When discussing the activity with the learners here focus on asking questions about the process not the product they have created.

Dancing

A very different approach to processing and expressing, once again. Learners get to use their whole body as a means of communication, which can lead to very different outcomes. Given that dancing in front of others may be very intense and vulnerable for some, one option is to ask the learners to keep their eyes closed during the activity (or turn off their cameras when online).

Making music

Making music can take many forms. From writing lyrics to creating melodies, from chords to rhythms. Making music can also be a form for group expression and connection, as different roles come together in a final product that reflects each individual’s contribution.

Cards with faces

Cards with faces are a way to reflect on and convey emotion. If the learner is just choosing one out of a set, this technique then falls under “order / choice”. However, learners may imitate expressions, make their own, or draw - prompted by the cards - in a free way that allows for individual expression.

Association

Association tools are those that tend to minimize ideation and emphasize immediacy of response. The point is not for the learner to reflect but rather to respond to the stimulus right away. This can be used to generate connections between topics, concepts and the learners’ previous experiences, for example.

Trigger words

A word association might be the most common technique of this category. Your prompts can be directly some of the session concepts, and the activity can surface the learners’ previous knowledge, thoughts or beliefs on the topic. This technique can also be used to spark connections between the learning contents and other areas that learners relate to.

Taboo

The game of taboo demands a lot of processing from the clue giver and quick association from the guessers. It can be played to review content, to spark connections or even as a creative way to present new information: giving a learner a concept, letting the learners play the game of taboo with that concept, and then developing on it, before moving on to another learner/player and another concept.

Sounds

Sounds can be used similarly to trigger words, just playing a sound or song as a trigger instead. Given that sounds are not language dependent, interesting learner differences may arise when comparing their first associations to them.

Reciting a poem

Poems with a structure or topic that is familiar to learners can be used to create associations. For example a summary of a previous session on an event can be written as a poem and read on the following session upon which each learner writes the words that come to their mind after they have heard the poem. These words represent the perception of the experience of the learners from the previous session in response to the summary.

Cards with simple images

Simple drawings leave a lot out that can be referred to. They usually are very clear concepts that everyone understands and has experience with, and can be used as a bridge to connect with more complet topics or as conversation starters.

Postcards

More complex than the simple image cards above, postcards can be highly evocative and remind people of diverse experiences. A brief showing of postcards can trigger certain words in the learners that you can later then use to explore. For this to work successfully it would be best for these postcards to all represent a similar topic, for example people working in teams. The learner then by having to express the first thing that comes to their mind gives us an insight of their formed perception of working in teams.


Resources

Visit our shop where you can find different tools which you can use to implement projective techniques in your coaching.

You can also download our free “Methods e-Book” to get a variety of different icebreakers and coaching interventions based on projective techniques.

Things To Keep in Mind When Using Projective Techniques

These tools are a fun way to get more interaction with your learners. However, as with many tools, there are potential pitfalls. To prevent you from running into many issues here are some tips to keep in mind:

  1. Projective techniques are not aimed to be game based learning, this is something different and has a different goal. When using projective techniques the aim of your activity or exercise should not change, rather you should be able to add another layer to the experience by using the projective techniques.
  2. Projective techniques should always be used as open ended activities, this means there is never a right or wrong or only one right answer from your learner. Learners need to be given the reassurance that their response is relevant and fitting to the stimuli.
  3. Some of these tools are super fun for learners to interact with, and in some cases they may find them too fun. If this happens they may become distracted and not focus on the prompt. Always pay attention to who your audience is and what may be (too) distracting to them.
  4. Another common issue learners may run into is encountering the tool for the first time and being confused by it, or the instructions on how to use the tool being too messy or complex for the learner to know what to do. Instructions should be quick and simple. If the tool contains multiple sides or has additional information that is not used with the projective method, clearly indicate what aspect form the tool needs to be used.

Start empowering your clients today by using projective techniques with metaFox coaching tools!

References

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