CGI FAQ

Child development consultants to the Liston Group assured us that CGI is appropriate for fourth and fifth-grade students though some may have questions about the definition of certain strengths or the meaning of some words in the test.

Answers to the “Difficulty” question in CGI show that elementary students rate CGI as “Fairly Easy” to “Easy.”

CGI is being used by US universities with excellent results.

If you look at the spreadsheet for a student’s individual scores and cannot find them, scroll to the bottom of the spreadsheet.  There you will find a separate section for invalid tests.

This means the student’s scores were not included in the school’s total score because (a) the student did not finish his/her CGI; (b) the student answered randomly without reading the questions or gave the same answer to every question; or (c) the student’s scores were outliers: They were so far above or below the mean as to indicate the student was putting the highest or lowest possible score on every or almost every question.

CGI answers all use a 7-Point Likert scale, every answer is a number between 1 and 7.  The lowest score a student can get on any question is a 1 and the highest is a 7.  The lowest score on any character strength, each of which has 5 questions, is 5 and the highest is a 35. 

If you ordered Option 2 or 3 that includes the color report, you will see the overall student means by grade and gender for each strength.  We are developing US and international norms that will help you see your students’ scores compared to these norms. 

Statistical significance is one way of seeing how important the differences are between means of scores.  This information is reported to you if your school chooses the full analysis of Option Three (see Service Options and Pricing: https://characterchallenge.org/character-growth-index/options-pricing-ordering )

As a very general rule, when means of “Now” are .2 greater than the mean of “Before” (or vice versa), you have some statistical significance.  The larger the number of students taking CGI, the more significant these differences become.

This information is very basic and requires some understanding of research data and use of spreadsheets. The attached is an illustration of the spreadsheet you will receive. Click here for the CGI Sample Spreadsheet.

You will receive all items in Option 1 plus data in both PowerPoint slides and PDFs. Scores are displayed by strength and demographic information in colorful graphs with comparisons to national averages. Click here for a sample of this report

You will receive all items in Option 2 plus expert analysis: A parent-friendly white paper is written by Dr. Liston that explains the color report and highlights the school’s positive scores. Click here for a sample white paper

You will find all of the information you about using CGI for research and the CGI Research Agreement with the possible cost associated with the attached two documents. 

The lines on the bar graph show the CGI norms for your language or nation.  At this time, they are for all scores.  In time, norms for grade and gender will be developed. 

As grade-level norms are developed, you will have another standard to assess your students’ character development.  You can compare the scores of a class of students to the national norms each year they are in your school.

For example, a middle school can have students take CGI each year.  They can compare students’ scores to the national average in the sixth, seven, and eighth grades.  If the class’ overall mean score is .02 points higher than the national average in sixth grade, .04 points higher in seventh grade, and .06 points higher in eighth grade, this would likely be statistically significant character development.

These are the best way to determine your students’ character in each of the 16 strengths.

Some students are highly motivated to do well on tests.  When they take a test like CGI that requires honest reflection upon their values and behavior, their desire for a higher score overrides their objectivity.  This is the “social desirability” discussed above and its result is an inflated CGI score.  If the score is so inflated that it is metrically considered invalid, the score will not count.

Social desirability can take another twist.  Some teens prefer to defy adults and resist doing what they suggest or require.  Some won’t take CGI or will put down very low scores for their character strength.  If the score is so low that it is metrically considered invalid, the score will not count.

A higher Honesty score is not necessarily a better score.

At the beginning of CGI, students are asked if they intend to answer honestly: “I intend to answer all of these questions honestly, even if I’m not proud of my answer.”  We call this Honesty Intent.

At the end of the test, students are asked if they answered honestly: "I answered all these questions honestly, even if it makes me look bad."  We call this Honesty Report.

CGI asks 5 more questions about Honesty, including if the student has lied, cheated on schoolwork, or stolen in the last month.  We call this Trait Honesty.

Honesty is difficult to measure and is one of the most interesting character strength in CGI for these reasons:

  • CGI is a student self-report.  Often student care more about appearing to be Honest than they do about being Honest.  In statistics, this is called "social desirability."  Logically, if students lie in their CGI answers, they will make their Trait Honesty score higher.  If they tell the truth, their Trait Honesty score will sometimes be lower.
  • Correcting for social desirability is complicated and difficult but we are working on it.  An algorithm is being developed using the Honesty Intent and Honesty Report questions.  When the algorithm is developed, student scores will be adjusted based on their answers to the Honesty Intent question, the Honesty Report question, and the five Trait Honesty questions.  This adjustment isn't explained to the students, of course.  Only administrators will know this.
  • Trait Honesty's average is usually one of the lowest CGI strengths.  We see this as both an indication of student Honesty and an indication of the rewards of adolescent theft, deception, and cheating.  Teens who choose to be honest are not often rewarded for their integrity.  Those who lie, cheat, and steal often receive benefit from their deception.
  • Expect CGI Honesty scores: a) to be more accurate if they are lower than the other traits and b) to be inflated and inaccurate the closer they are to other trait means.  A higher Honesty score doesn't necessarily mean the student is more honest.

Assessing these strengths has a similar challenge to Honesty.  Using Humility as an example:  If students have a higher view of themselves and their abilities, they will tend to answer the Humility questions with higher scores.  Their thinking can be, "With all my abilities, it's amazing that I'm as humble as I am!" 

Those students who have a lower view of themselves and their abilities will often score themselves lower in these strengths but not always.  This could be accurate or it could indicate depression or low self-worth.

To correct for this, an algorithm is being developed that will be applied with certain other strengths that use the Youth Flourishing Scale (YFS; Liston & Diener, 2013).  This has 8 questions about the students' sense of well-being like, "My life has purpose and meaning" and "I think my future looks great".  

As we establish national norms for CGI, we will be able to develop these algorithms.  This will make CGI scores more precise in assessing character growth over time.

Student scores on most CGI strengths could be negatively or positively affected by “mood variance.”  That is, extreme changes in mood, whether happy or sad, could raise or lower their CGI score. 

To correct for this, an algorithm is being developed that will be applied with certain other strengths (see FAQ above) that uses the Youth Flourishing Scale (YFS; Diener & Liston, 2013).  This has 8 questions about the students' sense of well-being like, "My life has purpose and meaning" and "I think my future looks great".  

As we establish national norms for CGI, we will be able to develop these algorithms.  This will make CGI scores more precise in assessing character growth over time.

CGI provides a wonderful opportunity for meaningful discussions with students, both individually and classes, about character development.  Counselors and teachers can look at students’ scores on the spreadsheet by finding their student ID number.

Here are some very important recommendations for discussing student scores:

  • Keep in mind the above FAQs.  Many students will not understand these principles so you may have to say, “The way CGI is scored is very complex but is designed to consider many issues and challenges.”
  • Use scores as discussion points with individual students about their character development.  For example, you might say, “I see Love is a strength for you, that you feel close to your family and friends.  Tell me about that…”  Ask them questions that draw them into a discussion of a strength: “Your Courage score is strong.  When was a time when you expressed great Courage?”
  • Recommended: In individual discussions, talk about the student’s highest scores first.  These are her signature strengths that she can use to deal with any character challenges (her lower-scoring strengths) she might have.  In class discussions, you might ask students to share examples they have seen of students using these strengths at school.
  • Encourage a growth mindset in these discussions.  Emphasize that students can grow in character strength by intention and effort.  Our ‘want to’ empowers our ‘can do.’
  • Don’t put too much emphasis or weight on a student’s individual scores, whether high or low.  First of all, it could cause her to “fake good” or inflate her scores the next time she takes CGI so she “won’t get in trouble.”  Second, she could see herself as “bad at Peace” rather than understanding it takes training, effort, and time to develop Peace. Or if she had a high score, she could think, “I don’t need to work on Peace because I’m already so good at it.”  Too much emphasis on the score could reduce motivation to grow.
  • On a similar note:  Notice that national averages of certain strengths are lower on some and higher on others.  Students should always compare their individual score with the national average.  Most will score lower on Peace, Self-Control, Courage, and Spirituality, 

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