Indiana State University Newsroom

Faculty member leads workshops at conference in Austria

October 15, 2012

What would you do if you knew that by taking a test, you could better determine your strengths of personality and by studying this, you could better understand other people's personalities?

Within a few minutes of meeting others, you would have a very good idea of how they perceive the world around them, as well as their preferred communication channels, environmental preferences, psychological needs and event their predictable distress patterns when things aren't going so well. Best of all, you could do something about their distress.

Ryan Donlan, an assistant professor at Indiana State University, has been doing this since 2007. Now that more people are discovering the Process Communication Model (PCM), a model with its origins in clinical psychology and therapy, it is being studied all over the globe.

PCM is a tool that enables individuals to understand themselves and communicate with others. As the model applies to education, it is called the Process Education Model (PEM).

Donlan joined others from around the world at the Fourth Process Communication Model World Conference in Vienna, Austria at the end of August. The conference was for experts, scholars and practitioners to learn different approaches, study background information and gather new research for the PCM.

"This had been my first time abroad and it was an incredible experienced and I wouldn't have been able to go without the help of Indiana State University's New Faculty Orientation program, which provided funding for traveling and scholarship," Donlan said. "ISU knows how to take care of its faculty members, with its care and guidance."

Donlan presented four times while overseas. One workshop included an activity with six PCM experts who played the role of students exhibiting "distressed behavior" in a classroom. He used (PCM) to change his words, tone, gestures, postures and facial expressions to better align the student's commutation styles in order to meet their physiological needs and better teach them the academic content.

Donlan's led the conferences second day general session with a presentation called "Whose Phase is it Anyway?" set up similar to the show "Whose Line is it Anyway?," where he and others applied PCM. He had participants from different countries who acted as panelists challenged to act out improvisational skits using the theories of PCM. The goal was for the audience and participants to how to better address the needs of at risk students.

Donlan was introduced to this model while working on his doctorate and decided to seek certification in PCM.

"Out of the four degrees I received in college, becoming certified was the most difficult," said Donlan.

The PCM uses a model that shows that each of us is comprised of six layers of personality: harmonizer, believer, do-er, imaginer, funster and thinker. Donlan explained most predominant personality is established at birth or shortly thereafter with the remaining layering themselves in, in order of strength, by around age seven. Although the order of personality structure remains the same throughout one's lifetime, the six layers may change in their relative strength and accessibility, depending on life events. Practitioners using "process" have seen a positive lasting impact.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) used PCM in its recruitment and selection processes of astronauts and funded the first comprehensive validation study on the model. President William Jefferson Clinton also used PCM in his presidential campaigns and presidency.

Donlan compares PCM as more a "lifelong motion picture" of someone's personality, whereas other useful models, such as the Meyers-Briggs, he considers more as snapshot. Both are valuable in understand oneself, he said.

"I would like other departments around the university to see and experience this model and see if it could work for them," said Donlan. He added "This model could help people with their marriages, relationships with their children and even jobs."

"This model works, it is fascinating to think of the potential for expanded research on the model and how it may contribute to new knowledge and learning."

Donlan uses PCM in his day-to-day life for teaching, scholarships and service. He offers professional development of the PCM to educators. He has done many presentations on the PCM to a variety of schools and organizations in the Midwest.

Donlan has been with k-12 education for more than 20 years and is a certified PCM/PEM trainer. He is a published author and is currently working on a validation study of the Process Communication Model's Personality Pattern Inventory with a team of researcher using data from over 53,000 study participants. Initial results were shared with the international community in Austria.

Photo: Donlan

Contact: Ryan Donlan, Assistant Professor, Department of Educational Leadership, Indiana State University, at or 812-237-8624

Writer: Beth Pickerill, media relations assistant, at bpic or 812-237-3773