Tuesday, February 10, 2009

My Learning

3. Discovering My Personality Type.

According to: Gordon Lawrence, People types and tiger stripes: a practical guide to learning styles; 2nd edition. Center for Applications of Psychological Type, Inc., c1984. Appendix A, “Introduction to Type,” by Isabel Briggs Myers, c1980. 101, A1-A14p.

Following from the Myers-Briggs type indicator, Lawrence discusses the relationship of types to learning in the school setting. Though all types are valid, teachers have traditionally done a better job of relating to some types than others. The variety of types in one classroom challenges teachers: the average breakdown of a random group of 35 students, as in a required class, is 7 IS, 3 IN, 18 ES, 7 EN. A study by Myers of 500 students who had not finished 8th grade found that 99% of them were sensing types. The bulk of the book consists of profiling types and recommending learning activities that various types will relate to, like, and thereby learn.

As an INTJ learner and teacher, how do I fare under Lawrence?

My mother used to remark that I was a poor reader until third grade, and she credited Miss Efteland (later Mrs. Sandberg) for turning that poor performance around. I puzzle over this difficulty because I grew up in an excellent reading environment. My parents were readers and always had a lot of newspapers, magazines and books around. Dad read to us almost daily, first the comic strips, but later poems, stories and eventually books. After I could read myself, I listened intently off to the side as he read Kon Tiki (1950) and The Journals of Lewis and Clark (DeVoto; 1953) to my brother and me.

I remember being impressed in first grade by things that other children knew, such as the names of colors, and the way they took to the alphabet and words on the page. I felt inadequate next to them in reading aloud sessions. In the second grade, Miss Wilson sent me down from the Bluebirds to the Bears, and I knew I was in disgrace. When in the third grade, policy allowed us the school library on a regular basis, and I could choose from a large pile of books put out on the table. Reading became an enjoyment and exploration in which I leaped at the invitation to partake. Besides, I could do it by myself, not out-loud and in public.

When I look at it now, those Dick and Jane readers were pedestrian where the biggest drama was Sally’s teddy bear disappearing as the family car containing it went up the grease rack. The books I had access to in third grade were more the equivalent of my favorite radio shows – Let’s Pretend, the episodes on Buster Brown, or The Inner Sanctum.

Reading became my major way of learning, and I gradually discovered that I was in charge of my own learning. Thanks to the books I read, I was ahead of the class in most subjects. I scored high in the Iowa tests because if I knew the topic, I didn’t read the sample test text, I went direct to answering the questions. Never studious in school – I was too busy reading – I never got grades as high as my two diligent sisters achieved. My real downfall came with 10th grade. I had signed up for all the college prep courses, and so many of them did not depend upon reading, but doing. The math courses bothered me because there was no discussion of why things are the way they are. I could abstract concepts from words, but the abstractions of geometry, algebra and trigonometry were pure and seemingly without referents. I tried to imagine how a line could touch a circle at only one point that had no dimension and felt I was going mad. Biology I got through thanks to Leonard Espeland, likely the best teacher I ever had, and Elizabeth Weber my lab partner. But the hands-on aspects of chemistry and physics became as frustrating to me as mechanical drawing and shop. I dreaded all the experiments that failed and the pressure to arrive at principles. I wanted the principles first. Couldn’t we just read about these things and discuss them. INTJ!

I was a failure as a school librarian because I couldn’t figure out why almost everyone wanted to talk, flip through magazines, and not read as I had done in my own high school years. Quickly I was off to academic librarianship and college teaching, then other types of library work, consultancy, and at the end graduate teaching.

One thing about teaching a foundations course in library and information science, which became my specialty, was that most of the students are INs or NTs, the same is I. I am far more conscious of differences in learning now, and try to give students a lot of choices and opportunities to converse and question. Still, clearly the approach is the overview, heavy on the reason why or the possibility of what might be.

My Learning is part 3 of a 5-part look at my personality based on various approaches. See also My INTJ (1), My LifeKey (2), My Thinking (4), My Solo (5).

© 2009 by Roger Sween

I welcome substantive comment on the contents of this blog. Personal comments may be made to my email address, given above.