It’s All About Style

Some people find a new interest and stick with it. Others discover a new enthusiasm, and then lose interest over time. Or I guess maybe most of us do both, although one tends to predominate. It’s like the differentiations on the Myers-Briggs, et al. “Feelers think, and thinkers feel” was one of the first things we were taught in studying personality type.

                My interest in personality type was engendered by my interest in learning styles. I became enthusiastic about that topic in the summer of 1990, and I incorporated it into my teaching thereafter. Not only did I use it to try to understand myself and my students better, but I specifically taught it so that they might get a better understanding of others in their lives, particularly their teachers.

                Ideally, teachers should “bridge” the gap between their styles and those of their teachers. In practice that is difficult to do, but it’s well worth the effort to understand, and at least part of the time, teach to those students who are on the other side of the circle from us as teachers.

                If you’re not familiar with the concept, personality type can be identified through a set of four oppositional pairs: thinking/feeling; sensing/intuition; introvert/extrovert; judging/perceiving. These four pairs can then be combined into sixteen distinct personality types. For example, I am an INFP. I am an Introvert; I rely on my iNtuition more than sensory input; I tend to rely on my Feelings more than my Thoughts; and I view Perception of the world more important than making Judgements about it. The chart below summarizes all this.

There is of course a lot more to it. Some people dismiss it as a load of hooey. Interestingly enough, they tend to be clustered around the S and J identifiers; thus ISTJ, ESTJ, INSJ, and ENSJ in particular. The opposite is true for those who identify and N (iNtuition; since I is already in use for Introverstion) and P. That’s me, as and INFP.

                You can conclude a lot about a person’s learning style, based on their personality type. If you google “learning styles debunked” you’ll find a lot of scholarly articles doing just that. My guess would be that none of these “scholars” have ever tried to apply learning styles in their own teaching; to a large degree because they don’t do any actual teaching. They have graduate students for that. If they do “teach,” it’s by the lecture method, and students who struggle in their classes just aren’t studying enough/applying themselves/making the effort. It’s a nice tautology.

                I used learning styles, as I said, in my own teaching. And I had concrete experiential proof that they worked. Of course, that’s anecdotal, and thus unacceptable in academe.

                The strongest proof I got was from kids whose grades improved in other teachers’ classes, because they, as students, were able to better understand why their teachers taught as they did, and were better able to adjust themselves to a teacher’s style. N.b. This was without the teacher in question making any adjustment, or, in most cases, being ignorant of learning styles.

                Ir’s been two decades since I was in a classroom, and my interest in learning styles has naturally wanted. Nevertheless I remember them fondly as a powerful tool in my “teacher’s toolkit.” Of course, I was a maverick. As far as most of my colleagues were concerned, I was a maverick who went completely off the deep end the last year I taught high school. But that’s another story.

Published by the medieval gnome

Teacher, reader, I was briefly a small businessman, fulfilling a life-long dream of owning my own game store. In the past 15 years I have become an ardent Terry Pratchett fan, hence my podcast, "The Discworld Portal. Teaching is in my blood, and at age 62 I seek to pursue practicing my craft online.

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