According to renowned Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung (1971), all of us have an innate personality type which manifests itself in our everyday functioning – the way we think, make decisions, behave and respond to external stimuli. For an overview of Jung’s theory on personality types, do check out our previous post (click here). Carl’s Jung’s typology has been applied in renowned personality assessments such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).
Do you know that your preferred learning style is likely to be influenced by your personality type too?
You might be familiar with the recently popularised VARK Learning Styles or Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences. Even before these models were developed, Carl Jung’s psychological type theory offered deep insights into how our in-born type preferences have profound impact on how we learn best. Understanding these insights can help you in the following ways:
- If you are an educator, you can tailor your lessons to engage learners of all personality types.
- If you are a supervisor at work, you can vary your instructions and tasks for your staff to enhance productivity.
- If you are a parent, you can help your child create a more conducive studying environment at home and select type-appropriate enrichment materials for them.
- If you are a student, you can choose type-appropriate revision strategies.
In this article, you will learn about the learning styles associated with the Extraversion-Introversion, Sensing-Intuition, Thinking-Feeling and Judging-Perceiving dichotomies. All of us have natural preferences on each of these dichotomies. Your learning styles may vary depending on these personality inclinations.
Extraverted (E) Learning Style
Extraverts channel their attention outwards and are energised by interaction with others. They typically enjoy socialising, discussing and doing things in groups. Preferred learning styles for E-type learners may include:
- Groupwork, group discussions and debates.
- Opportunities to verbalise their thoughts and ideas.
- Opportunities to do presentations.
- Experiential learning activities.
- Gathering ideas, inputs and solutions from others.
- Opportunities to lead groups and kick-start projects.
While E-type learners fare well in group settings, their energy levels may be drained when being tasked to do too much individual work or in an isolated setting.
Introverted (I) Learning Style
While extraverts are energised by social interactions, introverts direct their energy inwards – into the realm of their thoughts and mental processes. They tend to think things through first before taking action. They may also enjoy learning on their own, valuing space and time. Preferred learning styles for I-type learners include:
- Individual work.
- Listening and observing.
- Time and space to reflect before doing or presenting.
- Opportunities to process their learning.
- Putting thoughts and solutions in writing.
Energised by their inner thought world, they may start to feel drained when being placed in a setting where they are required to “do” more than “reflect”, or when interacting in large groups.
Sensing (S) Learning Style
People who have a Sensing preference tend to appreciate concrete information and details over concepts or sweeping statements. Their learning styles include:
- Detailed study and research on a particular topic or issue.
- Being presented with verifiable facts.
- Going through information in a sequential manner.
- Being offered practical solutions.
- Relying on present realities and personal experiences.
In a learning setting where they are not provided with ample concrete informative, Sensing learning may start to feel frustrated.
Intuitive (N) Learning Style
While Sensing learners focus on factual details, Intuitive learners prefer information that is theoretical and conceptual. Their preferred learning styles include:
- Going through underpinning theories and principles.
- Looking at the big picture and abstract ideas.
- Being presented with insights and patterns.
- Connecting present learning to other areas and topics.
- Opportunities to stretch their imagination and consider future possibilities.
In a learning setting where they are deprived of these, their energy and engagement levels of Intuitive learners may wane.
Thinking (T) Learning Style
Individuals with a Thinking preference lean towards being analytical and objective. They use logic in decision making. Learning styles associated with T-type learners include:
- Opportunities to analyse and rationalise what is being taught.
- Task-based and problem solving approaches.
- Understanding the reason for learning the information.
- Opportunities to raise questions, think critically and/or debate.
Thinking-types may get put-off when there is too much emphasis on personal feelings or decision-making based on emotions.
Feeling (F) Learning Style
While Thinking-type learners gravitate towards reason and logic, Feeling-type learners prioritise relationships and harmony in the learning environment. Their learning styles include:
- A nurturing learning environment with positive social interactions.
- Feeling understood and cared for by the teacher or other learners.
- Opportunities to demonstrate empathy and share their feelings.
- Understanding how the information learnt is attuned to their values.
Feeling-type learners may get discouraged when they perceive the learning environment to be too impersonal or when they receive criticism.
Judging (J) Learning Style
The J-P dichotomy has to do with a person’s approach towards day-to-day life. Those with a Judging preference appreciate order and structure in their lives. Learning styles for J-types include:
- A systematic and organised approach in learning.
- Being given clear timelines and learning objectives.
- Well-defined structures and rules to function within.
- Being taught the methods and techniques to accomplish tasks.
- Close supervision.
Being planful people, J-type learners may feel lost when the learning environment is loosely structured and spontaneous.
Perceiving (P) Learning Style
While Judging-type learners adopt a planful approach towards life, learners with a Perceiving preference appreciate flexibility and spontaneity. Their learning styles include:
- Opportunities to explore what they can achieve in learning.
- Not-too-rigid structures.
- Being able to shift timelines and/or learning methods.
- Being given freedom and flexibility to accomplish learning/tasks.
P-type learners might experience difficulties coping if they feel bound by strict schedules or if they are being micro-managed.
Enhancing Learning Potential
Around the world, studies in the field of education have shed light on how learners’ personality types influence the way in which they learn best (e.g. Silver et al. 2000). Learners’ achievement have also been reported to have improved markedly when educators address learners’ learning styles based on their types (Carbo 1992). Teaching based on individual learning styles is also found to ensure learners’ achievement and motivation (Bostrom and Lassen 2006).
While learners are most engaged when using their preferred types are “activated” during the learning process, the teaching methods of many educators do not meet the varied learning styles of their learners.
Whether consciously or sub-consciously, educators or supervisors alike may have the tendency to instruct in their own personal type preferences – they teach how they themselves learn best. For example, a Sensing-type educator may predominantly use a Sensing style of teaching, that is, focusing on factual details. This may disengage the Intuitive-type learners, who prefer concepts and theories.
To engage all learner types, those in a teaching or instructing role are encouraged to modify or expand their methodology and curriculum to address the learning needs of all personality types (Silver et al. 2000).
For Deeper Learning, Don’t Forget to Train Your Non-Preferred Types!
As a learner yourself, you may have already noticed a natural inclination to use your preferred personality functions, and tapping into the non-preferred side of the four dichotomies makes you feel a bit like a fish out of water.
However, for a more balanced, rounded and deeper learning, you need to also exercise your non-preferred personality functions. Silver et al. (2000) believes that the ultimate learning goal is to achieve balance by facilitating and developing ability in all psychological functions.
How does this look like?
For example, if you are an Introvert (I), you can try asking for inputs from others apart from depending on your own learning.
As an Intuitive (N) learner, you should be mindful to also study the specific details and learn facts that supports the overarching concepts.
At Personality Matters, we have coached clients to become the best versions of themselves by building on their strengths and being aware of their personality type-related blindspots. Overcoming your natural personality tendencies to utilise your non-preferred functions can be challenging, but it will also be rewarding.
Dr. J. Peter is a researcher and specialist in psychological type and cognitive-behavioural sciences. He helps clients build better emotional, psychosocial and relational well-being.
Bostrom, Lena, and Liv M. Lassen. 2006. ‘Unraveling Learning, Learning Styles, Learning Strategies and Meta-Cognition.’ Education & Training 48, no. 2: 178-189.
Carbo, Marie. 1992. ‘Giving Unequal Learners an Equal Chance: A Reply to a Biased Critique of Learning Styles.’ Remedial & Special Education 13, no. 1: 19-29.
Jung, Carl G. 1971. Psychological Types: The Collected Works, Volume 6. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
Silver, Harvey F., Richard W. Strong, and Matthew J. Perini. 2000. So Each May Learn: Integrating Learning Styles and Multiple Intelligences. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Williamson, Margaret. F., and Roberta L. Watson. 2007. ‘Learning Styles Research: Understanding How Teaching Should be Impacted by the way Learners Learn Part III Understanding How Learners’ Personality Styles Impact Learning.’ Christian Education Journal 4, no. 1: 62-77.
Photo Credits: All images in this post are from Unsplash.