So what’s your personality? – Martin Smith

What really makes your gears turn? Recently, I was thinking about a personality test, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), that might help you figure this out.  The full test itself is an extensive questionnaire that is designed to classify your personality preferences in four areas in order to help you better understand the way you think and react under different circumstances.  I wanted to share it in this blog because I think it can help us to reflect upon and understand our style and preferences as a teacher.  For me, understanding my own personality preferences helped me to relate better with my students.

(I’m going to talk about some of the classifications below, so if you want to take the test unbiased before reading anymore you can find a shorter version of the test here.

Each area, or dichotomy, that is rated has two opposing preferences and the personality indicator assigns you a scale (0 to 100) to try and quantify the strength of your preference in each dichotomy.  For example, one of the dichotomies describes your preference for introversion/extraversion.  If you score a 100% extrovert it means that you much prefer being extroverted versus someone who scores a 1% extrovert.  The four dichotomies (with abbreviations) are: introvert/extrovert (I/E), sensing/intuition (S/N), thinking/feeling (T/F) and judging/perceiving (J/P).

Introvert vs. Extrovert – This dichotomy is probably the clearest in my mind.  If we are extroverted we prefer interacting with others, whereas, if you are introverted you prefer to spend time on your own.  Extroverts tend to enjoy group learning activities and become charged up through their interactions with others.  Interestingly, introverted students tend to think about the big picture, grouping knowledge and finding interconnections between them.  One source, the Center for Applied Psychological Type (CAPT) says that 55-60% of faculty and lecturers are extroverts.  I can imagine this preference would help when your job is to interact with lively groups of students.

Sensing vs. Intuition – This preference describes how we make decisions and put information together.  If you are a sensing personality type it means that you make decisions based upon your five senses.  Often this personality trait means that you trust in the facts and learn through a sequential mechanism.  On the other hand, an intuitive person will rely on their “gut” to make decisions.  Much like an introvert an intuitive person tends to think about the big picture and make theories to draw them together much like a global learner might.  CAPT points to the interesting fact that while most freshmen students are the sensing type faculty instructors are intuitive by nature.  This begs an interesting discussion point, “What does that mean when intuitive people try to teach a sensing type?” I’ll come back to that later.

Thinking vs. Feeling – If you are a thinker it suggests that you place a high value on making logical decisions based upon an analysis of the situation.  On the other hand, being a feeling personality type suggests that when you make a decision you place more value on emotional and human values.

Judging vs. Perception – Some of us prefer regimented lifestyles, thriving on being decisive.  This means we tend to live and breathe by the deadline and make decisions based upon the facts we know at the time.  We are the judging personality type.  The other preference is for perception.  This type tends to spontaneous, curious and adaptable.  Often starting many projects perceivers want to understand as much as they can about everything they encounter.  Apparently undergraduate students and faculty have a slight tendency for the judging type.

Each combination has been given a name that characterizes our personality (one of them, ENFJ, is actually called, “the inspirer” or, “the teacher”).  I’m actually an ENTJ; they call this type the, “field marshal” or, “business executive”.  As an example of what this highlighted for me, one of the areas I strongly prefer is N.  You will recall that most university teachers are N’s while students tend to be S-types.  So what does it mean when many students I encounter will be sensing?  Recognizing the difference helped me to understand why I would get questions like, “Why is this technique even important?”  Realizing that the big picture is not something a lot of students focus on, I now try to make these connections for students whenever I can.  Hopefully, armed with a newfound appreciation of different personalities you will be able to relate better to your students as well.

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