To educate children means to lead them to be the best they can be. It does not mean changing them into something they are not but rather to take them as they are with their individual inclinations, strengths, and preferences. Each child is unique and should be treated uniquely. The same can be said for teachers. Each teacher is unique with different teaching and learning styles and strengths. When teachers and students understand, accept and rejoice in each others’ different personalities and temperaments, true learning can begin to take place.
The theory of personality types developed by Carl Jung was systematized into a sixteen type indicator by Myers and Briggs. Looking at four of these types or temperaments: sensing, intuiting, thinking and feeling, we can begin to understand and appreciate the fact that there are different ways students and teachers perceive the world and as result different judgments are formed based on the perceptions.
In perceiving the world, some people rely mostly on their five senses and are called sensing. They look at the world in terms of what they can see, touch, hear, taste and smell. Students and teachers who prefer sensing stress fact over theory and reality over imagination.
Other people use intuition when perceiving the world. They look at the world through their mind’s eye and go beyond the observable facts to possibilities, meanings and relationships. Students and teachers who us intuiting favor abstraction and symbolic reasoning.
Some people prefer making judgments and coming to decisions objectively and impersonally and are called thinking. Students and teachers who prefer thinking analyze the facts.
A feeling style on the other hand has a preference for making judgments subjectively and personally. Students and teachers who prefer feeling weigh values and are concerned about how others feel.
In a book entitled, “I Am a Good Teacher” Dr. Elizabeth Murphy depicts how these different styles are played out in a classroom setting. The sensing teacher wants her students to learn something useful and practical. She has a well established classroom routine which the students understand. In her instructions, she tends to ask the questions in an orderly fashion and give examples.
This type of instruction works well for the sensing students. They appreciate knowing exactly what to do in a step-by-step way. For the intuitive students, this sometimes presents difficulty because they do not like to go through five examples when they got the idea after two. For the thinking students, they sometimes get annoyed because they have not been told the logic behind the examples. The feeling students are more concerned about the well being of the class than getting the examples right.
The intuitive teacher likes flexibility and freedom in the classroom. There are learning centers and a lot of activity. She likes essay tests and higher level thinking skills and tends to go with her hunches about what the students need.
The sensing students in this class feel that things are too disorganized. They do not always want to imagine and create. The intuitive students love it. The thinking students feel a lack of logic and orderliness in the instruction while the feeling students are concerned how people are feeling the situations presented by the teacher.
The thinking teacher wants the students to develop their intelligence and examine the complex parts of learning. This teacher sets high achievement standards and likes discussions and debates. A student who cannot keep up with the logical sequence of the lessons, may need a tutor. She believes the students’ reward is learning itself.
The sensing students in this situation feel the need for more direction. They would do what the teacher wants if they knew how. The intuitive students enjoy thinking of things in different ways but sometimes get off the track. The thinking students work very hard and enjoy the challenge. The feeling students like assignments which show kindness to animals and people.
The feeling teacher is concerned about the students’ welfare and how they feel about themselves. She uses a great deal of individualized instruction and runs a democratic, comfortable classroom.
The sensing students in this class would prefer to be graded on what they do, not on who they are and want more practical examples. The intuitive students are more interested in what happens next rather than how people feel. The thinking students prefer to learn on their own and do not like so many group activities. They prefer discussions rather than handing in written assignments. The feeling students love everything about this classroom.
All of these teaching and learning styles have value. One is not better than another, they are just different. Teachers can learn from and appreciate different learning styles, and children can learn from and appreciate different teaching styles. Dr. Murphy believes, and I concur, that all classrooms can be structured to encourage the development of these differences. Diversity is to be encouraged, understood and accepted, not stifled or nullified.