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Differentiating instruction is always a topic of conversation among teachers, no matter what you teach, or how many years you have been teaching. Different methods of differentiating instruction are also the topics of many staff development trainings. The MBTI theory of personality type is an excellent addition to a teacher’s toolbox. The theory examines the way people prefer to gain energy, take in information, make decisions, and approach life. It seems to me that this approach to differentiating instruction compliments other approaches and allows them to be used as a whole, as opposed to separate parts, to create lasting educational experiences for students.
One of my instructional goals, before I even considered taking this course, was to create a classroom environment that appealed, in some way, to every student. I wanted each student to feel like they had an important place in my health class and to feel comfortable while they were learning the concepts and skills pertaining to health. I knew I was reading the right book when Kise explained about “Flow”. It was exactly what I was looking for. The recipe for flow includes creating interesting tasks, with clear goals, which engage student’s abilities, and use immediate feedback as students proceed through the lessons (pg. 5). Now I have a plan as to how to direct my energies when creating and implementing lesson plans.
Before learning the ins and outs of differentiating instruction based on the personalities types of students, the first step was to identify and try to understand my own personality type. According to the MBTI assessment my profile is that of an INTJ. My scores seemed to float down the middle of the spectrum of the scoring sheet. I’m not sure if that has any meaning or not. I personally think it makes me able to be more empathetic to my opposite personality type, although I’m not sure if Myer and Briggs would agree with me. It took a while before I could agree with the instrument’s assessment of me, but, as I think back on my life experiences and how I have handled them, I feel it is pretty accurate.
According to the text by Kise, we, as teachers, tend to prefer a classroom that compliments our personality types. Teachers find it easy relating to students who have similar personalities. This is where I find I differ. I tend to plan for a classroom that meets the needs of the opposite, or the ESFJ, but I never let them take control knowing I have opposite students in the room. I enjoy my extraverted students as much as my introverted. This is where my mid-line scores might be of service to me. I am able to comfortably step on either side of the line and “see” where each set of students is coming from.
When examining two students in my teaching population, I chose a student who was opposite me, and one that was similar. Although I appreciate both types of students in my class I now realize why it takes a lot more energy to plan for and manage these opposite type students. They are my opposite. I tend to plan for them first. Not having thorough plans for that ESFJ could spell disaster in the classroom. When needing to change the tempo or instructional details of a class, meeting the needs of the student whose personality is similar is much easier than the one who is opposite. Understanding type preferences allows a teacher to appreciate (not necessarily like) some of the different behaviors exhibited by some students. Upon reflection a teacher can analyze the activities in the lesson and match them to the personality type it would most appeal to. Then they can decide what needs to be done to help the opposite type successfully complete the lesson.
When looking through the charts listing specific activities that help certain types learn, and what might go wrong if school isn’t working for them, I find that many of the suggested activities I already use. This has come from years of experience. Being an intuitive type, I can’t exactly tell you why they are good, or name any specific ability or disability that they match, they just work. By leaving a copy of the personality types and their descriptors in my lesson plans, I can always find the justifications that I might need to modify lessons. I appreciate having a theory to back me up.
So, what’s my next step? I’ve been thinking about refining my lessons to include a greater variety of activities. I want to include more technology and allow more choices of activities to achieve the lesson’s goals. I’ve sort of been spinning my wheels on how to do this. Differentiating lessons through personality types is resource I plan on using to complete this process. it has provided me with the “grip” I need.
One of the many health goals is for students to appreciate who they are and find the parts of them that they like. If lessons are structured so that they sometimes match their personality types and sometimes cause them to stretch and try new ways of managing challenging situations, students would then feel a combination of success by strength and success by learning new strategies. This would hopefully make them feel good about who they are and what they can accomplish. Self-esteem would be strengthened.
As you can see, I’m pretty excited about the possibilities for refinement and change. My learning is definitely not over in regards to differentiating through personality types. I am anxious to see how the student’s respond to the changes that I will make to my current lessons. I am pleased that I had the opportunity to experience this course and, I am excited about where it will take me.
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas
Read through the eyes of a I/ESTJ
‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. (Because once you go to bed you stay in bed!)
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care (and organized alphabetically, by age, and color or course),
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there (and he better not be late!);
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads (can you dream about sugar-plums if you don’t know what they are? Let’s be realistic!);
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter’s nap.
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter (What’s all that Noise! Keep it down!),
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter (I will thoroughly check this out, don’t worry),
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash (not too rough, don’t want to rip or tear or make a mess).
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow (I’ll pay the kid next door to shovel and I hope he does it right this time!)
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear (my eyes do not wander, thank you! I’m very focused!),
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer (too inefficient! Must get Santa a larger sleigh),
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick (Let’s see . . . winter, Dec. 24, snow, loud noise, sleigh, reindeer, flying, etc. Logic says: St. Nick!),
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name (Shhhhhh – don’t wake the children!):
‘Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen! (Dumbest names ever! Must be Hollywood families)
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall! (porch or wall? Which is it? Make a decision and stick with it, would ya?)
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
Many graphic organizers find there way into my lesson plans. KWL charts, Venn diagrams, 3-column organizers and concept maps are dispersed throughout my lessons. I used different ones for separate projects and different grade levels to keep the lessons looking and feeling new from year to year. Our testing showed that students need more work organizing their ideas when writing. All subjects support writing, so I expanded my expectations for writing in health class.
Each grade level is required to read several health articles from Current Health or Choices magazine. Depending on the grade level, they are required to write 1-3 summaries per health session. While writing the summaries they are to focus on good paragraph writing techniques. This would mimic an extended response on a test or a homework assignment. I put a graphic organizer on one side of the paper and the paragraph lines on the other. There are arrows and numbered shaped sections for those students needing the extra structure.
The results have been great. The paragraph writing has improved. Plagiarism has decreased, and student confidence has gone up. These writings have been used as samples in student meetings to show what they are doing in their writing. Since I will be seeing the students twice throughout the year, 60 days apart, these summaries can then be used to show growth in writing. In terms of PLC, these summaries can be used for added information to show what the students know and are able to do.
PROVIDE FULL EXAMPLES
In health class we do many different projects. With all the different learning styles, I want to be sure students are getting what they need in terms of understanding directions, and knowing what to do next. In the past I have used the Promethean board to show how to create the projects. There was still some difficulty (not just technical when the computer crashed). I’ve started making large sized models while giving directions to help with those sensing students and visual learners. Not only am I modeling HOW to create the project, but I am modeling the self-talk as well. Students get to hear me think out loud as I create the project.
I’ve found that the students are attending better to my explanations. They are also anticipating my self-talk and saying it before I get the chance to (this was very cool to listen to). They are making suggestions for what I might add to a drawing, or perhaps which color I should use. I found this very interesting because the Promethean’s claim to fame was that students would attend better to technology. These samples are exactly like the projects the students will create (except bigger) so, I think, it is easier for them to comprehend exactly what they are supposed to do. As a result I am getting better quality projects with more detailed information when they are sharing. Again, these are great examples of what students know and are able to do.
As I look at my original MBTI preferences, I came back as an ESFJ. I looked at the descriptors and really didn’t feel like that fit me very well, especially the part about “making daily routines into gracious living” (Lawrence, 5). My day to day life is anything but gracious or routine! I decided that I felt more at home as an ESFP, at my “best when free to act on impulses, responding the needs of the here and now” (Lawrence 6).
I have been reflecting on these categories for the last few months and really looking at not only how I behave in my day to day life, but how my personality affects both the way I teach and interact with my peers. Prior to taking this course, I may not have even placed myself as an extrovert. I was always shy as a child and often would not have been caught dead volunteering to do anything in front of a larger group of people. I was very self-conscious. I am learning, however, that this is different from being an extrovert or introvert. In looking at where I get my energy from, it is definitely from being around others, good conversation and thoughts to stimulate my mind. Attending our class from 4-7 is a perfect example. I will come in to class feeling exhausted from the day, but once our discussions begin to flow, I feel much more energized. I get excited during conversations and sometimes almost can’t even contain myself to wait until it is my turn to speak. I have recently noticed that I actually have a terrible habit of interrupting people! So, extrovert it is (or, I am)!
The Sensing piece was a no-brainer for me. Just the facts ma’am. I have a background in environmental studies and biology. I am a very hands on learner and need to have a multi-sensory learning experience in order to fully process what I am studying. I am impulsive in my day to day life and like to try to be practical, logical and resourceful (all descriptors Lawrence uses for an ESFP).
Feeling was also a no brainer. I am a very sensitive person, generally not only for my own needs and feelings but to those around me as well. I always want to help and make things better- in fact, I think this is why I often have a million unfinished projects (along with my impulsivity and “being caught up in enthusiasms” (Lawrence 6).
Really, the trouble spot for me has been this Perceving or Judging piece. It wasn’t until I re-read the Gordon Lawrence article and noticed that he discusses that our type should show us “at our best” and “valuing” certain traits or scenarios. I think that my first screen came back as an ESFJ, because organization is a skill that I am currently focusing a lot of time and effort on and am very focused on. I was also coming to my screening right from work and in a very work-based frame of mind. At work, I probably am more of an ESFJ. When I am in my element and comfortable and just being myself, I fit more into the ESFP category. This reminded me of a couple of different things.
First; the importance of remembering that Type is an indicator of our personal preferences. It is not something that is set in stone or a definitely formula that determines how we react and relate to everything. As Gordon Lawrence demonstrates in his article, Type is more of a guideline to show us what or how we prefer things to be. It is a guideline to help us see where our strengths and weaknesses lie as professionals, friends, parents, everything. It is a guideline to help us become more well-rounded teachers and provide better lessons for the students we struggle to reach. But it is not the end all, be all and if you don’t fit like a cookie into its cutter with your type, that’s ok, because your type may be a little different in every part of your life.
Second; as someone who is currently going through a lot of change and coping with (or at least attempting to) a lot of stress, my type may not fit my life right now. I remember Marilyn saying that when we are under extreme stress, we revert to our opposite dominant function. My dominant function is typically Extroverted Sensing. When I am stressed, all I want to do is find peace, quiet, organization and clarity. I become more of an Introverted Thinking person in an attempt to regain clarity. I have found myself question what the indicator told me several times over the last few months, but I think it is truly a result of what I am going through in my life right now. I have enjoyed this learning process about both myself and my students and look forward to taking this knowledge and applying it to my life in and out of school.
I have read this article several times and since tomorrow is our last class, and I’m a “P” I’m now ready to respond! At first I was very confused by what Gordon Lawrence was trying to convey. I looked up the definitions for type and trait. Not helpful…but after letting this swim around in my brain for a few weeks, I feel like I’m gaining some understanding. Types are patterns of mental processing. We filter and process our experiences in different ways. “Type becomes the mental framework to which can be attached a wide variety of traits.” This became very clear to me with the example of people with an extraverted mental framework. They may be more or less outgoing to others. Being outgoing is a skill that can be “hung” on an E or an I but, it is likely more natural to an E.
Descriptions of frameworks (types) talk about values, priorities, and motivations rather than traits that one can possess more or less of. Gordon Lawrence further states that changing a description to say INFPs are likely to be sensitive and caring to INFPs value sensitivity and caring changes how we understand this concept. The mental framework of an INFP has a built in priority for certain traits that may or may not be well developed.
In both the article and other handouts having the opposite types listed next to each other clearly shows me the contrast in their values. This helped a great deal in some behavior issues with a student who is the opposite type from me. She values directness, tough mindedness, results, doing, and acting. I value gentle respectful interactions, harmony, and, compassion. With her, I am now more objective and logical, appeal to her great leadership skills, and set clear and consistent limits. Things are getting much better!
Upon completing the MBTI survey, the results revealed what my personality types should be. To check on the validity of these results, I looked through the list of characteristics associated with each of the individual types to assess what I felt the results should be. I wasn’t sure I agreed with the instrument’s results. Many of the traits of the non-indicated types, as well as the indicated types, were characteristics that I thought represented me. How could this be?
For the past two months I’ve been giving this a lot of thought. I’ve been trying to notice how I react, respond, and prepare for the world around me. Now, I have to admit that my observations have shown that the indicator may have “indicated” correctly. Still, I was trying to wrestle with the idea of being more of one personality type than another. After reading Gordon Lawrence’s article “Refining the Language of Type Descriptions”, I may have settled into an understanding. I needed to distinguish “type” from “trait”.
According to the MBTI instrument, I show a preference for I-N-T-J. My initial confusion with this “diagnosis” was that I also had too many traits from the opposite categories. Lawrence explains “type” as a mental framework from which characteristics, or traits, can be attached. For instance, I may have a preference for introversion, but, especially when teaching, I display many extraverted traits. During these times, I do gain energy from the students in my class, as an extravert would. I focus on the people and the activity, but I reflect on the ideas and impressions of the lesson. This is where I spend a lot of time, and where I continue to get my enthusiasm for doing it better the next day. The extraverted activity, even though I love it, can get exhausting if repeated over and over without the time to think about it by myself.
This thought of having a mental framework works perfectly for me. Since I am a visual thinker, I can see it clearly. I am now more comfortable with the I-N-T-J personality profile.
I also have to admit that I like Lawrence’s handout version of the characteristics valued by a persons of a particular type. It is organized with the extraverts on the left and the introverts on the right. The traits are listed opposite of each other for easy comparison. Lawrence does caution not to consider one side as positive and the other as negative. It is a matter of values of that specific personality type. When reading through my list of valued characteristics I had to “LOL” when I found “INTJs value improving things by finding flaws”. Just ask my family and my students. Oh, that’s me.