figuring yourself out

This week, I was asked to complete an online survey about my learning style. I didn’t really have a learning style in mind, though I would have guessed that I’m also not a kinesthetic learner (yes, that was confirmed). I was on the fence a little between the other results–within one point of each other. I suspect that while I was an auditory learner one day, I may be more of a visual learner another time. For example, I take notes sometimes because it helps me process what I’m hearing. What kind of learning is that? Visual? Kinesthetic? Who knows?

I also scored myself on a sort of Myers-Brings test (from a chapter in the book A Teacher’s Guide to Cognitive Type Theory and Learning Style by Carolyn Mamchur) and got another surprising (or maybe not so surprising) result. Apparently, I am an ISFJ (Introvert Sensing Feeling Judging) now, but for example, when I had the real-deal copyrighted official paper Myers-Briggs questionnaire in front of me for some kind of high school leadership training when I was 17, I was an ESTJ (Extrovert Sensing Thinking Judging). I was talking to a psychology-type about it yesterday, and we discussed how this could be. Basically, there were a lot of “close” scores: 4 to 3, 6 to 1, 4 to 3, 4 to 3.

I agree now that I am definitely not an extrovert, and probably really wasn’t in high school either, but you convince yourself that this is the valuable personality trait to have, especially since teenagers are supposed to be all about the social. The Feeling result was also new to me this round–I’ve never had it “win” when I’ve tried online Myers-Briggs-like tests. However, I have NEVER wavered on the Sensing or the Judging: I’m not the Intuitive nor Perceiving kind.

Technically, it’s probably better to call me an iSfJ or even iSfj (I would call the J stronger than this one says though, just because I’ve always score that as a J.) When I read Mamchur’s descriptions, ISFJ does fit (especially given how my life/career have been lately), though so does ISTJ, which is what I kind of expected in the first place.

Mamchur's descriptions of ISTJ and ISFJ

Mamchur’s descriptions of ISTJ and ISFJ (1996)

All in all, I’ve always liked the Myers-Brigg as a measure because it’s detailed and pretty fun–but it’s also kind of like a horoscope. Should we really be making life decisions based on it?

I think we could probably do a little better with learning/personality typing apparatuses than the USD learning style survey or the Mamchur quiz. They were quick, yes, but I think a little over-generalized too. A colleague of mine does learning inventories with her students and says she uses it to plan instruction (this is a tall order… but it’s good to think about, even if only sometimes!). She uses some device with the 7 or 8 multiple intelligences and she has the kids chart their individual results on one of those graphs that looks like a spider web (and then they all hang it on the wall).

Provided that we were to find a really strong quiz device, I think it’s valuable strategy to encourage learners to be self-aware. Know thyself, right? It would be great if instructors paid attention to it more, but I just don’t think they do it consistently. I probably don’t. I mostly try to design things that are interactive and involve tasks. If it addresses multiple learning styles or intelligences, it’s probably a lucky side-effect.

learning retention rates

learning retention rates

I think awareness of brain-research on learning is generally the most important: knowing people’s attention spans and retention rates (like in that pyramid where people only retain 5% of material from a lecture, etc.) I think gearing library teaching tasks to these kinds of ideas is the way to go (instead of setting something to music…

That said, I do play classical and mood music when my students are silent reading or working independently to keep them tune out conversations and other distractions. It works!

Annotation: Learning Styles

Tomlinson, C. A. (2005). Chapter 10. The How To’s of Planning Lessons Differentiated by Learning Profile. How to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson/Merrill Prentice Hall. Retrieved September 29, 2013, from’s-of-Planning-Lessons-Differentiated-by-Learning-Profile.aspx

The chapter of this book focuses on how educators could actually plan instruction based on learning style.  It begins with a quick overview of the categories of learning-profile factors that teachers can adjust in their planning, with examples of each: group orientation, cognitive style, learning environment (e.g. noise and temperature), and intelligence preference (i.e. Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences). There is also discussion of how culture and gender influence learner preferences. The “guidelines for learning-profile differentiation” section was especially valuable, as it seemed to speak to practicing teachers more than theorists, with advice such as, “Remember that some, but not all, of your students share your learning preferences.” The chapter continues with case studies of learner-style differentiated classroom situations and a section on diagnosing student preferences.