People are the school’s greatest resource. They are something that, if treated properly, budget cuts can’t destroy and change in policy can’t defeat. The maximum utilization of the individual differences of people within a school organization is a worthy goal for all its inhabitants and one which is easy to believe in, but more difficult to implement. Honouring the expertise and strengths of the individual, within the organization, would tap an often overlooked and sometimes unused natural resource, whether the individual strengths be those of an administrator, teacher, parent or student. “Education is a people business. Perhaps every issue that we deal with in schools is basically a human relations situation. The effectiveness of curriculum, instruction, discipline, management, community relationships and the degree of academic achievement can often be traced to the ability of people to identify common purposes and work productively together. where we find open communication, high morale, positive climate, commitment of community and parents and enthusiastic caring professionals we find excellence in learning and teaching.” (Guild and Granger p5)
Our personalities / temperament profoundly govern choices made within the structure of our lives and then of course within the school system. Having an accurate understanding of a person’s temperament gives the onlooker ways to recognize the strengths or blind spots that a certain type of learning, teaching or supervisory style might have. Often we are talking to another individual but are we really communicating? Are we speaking the same language? Our own style often limits our view and blinds our full understanding of another’s style. The balancing act becomes extremely delicate when attempting to honour the diverse need of individuals within the complex structure of a school system. The study of temperament offers a deeper look into our ability to anticipate what motivates individuals. We see that a scientifically developed style instrument does effectively predict preferences choices, communication styles or educational belief systems. It also gives us insight into organizational or philosophical preferences and various processing styles. “Style (temperament) is at the core of what it means to be a person. It is an old concept that has been explored for centuries, but recently infused with new energy and direction. It is essential to any educators philosophy. It touches on classroom practice, administration and curriculum development. It relates to staff development and to students study habits. Perhaps more importantly it calls upon educators to recognize actively that people are different, and these differences inevitably surface when people learn, teach, supervise and develop programs.” (Guild & Garger pVIII-IX)

The application of temperament theory in an educational institution can be effectively applied in staff relationships where collegiality needs to be encouraged or where the teaching/learning relationships must be improved or where conflicting educational philosophies exist. The use of a style instrument assists in opening lines of communication. The information gained can aid in helping to prepare any group for changes that must be made. There are definite temperament differences that are not always obvious through observation alone, and understanding these differences can aid people of different types to built bridges between themselves and others, between individuals and representatives of an organizational system. “Those who are sensitive to others preferences in a way have privileged information. this privileged information cannot be faked and must be treated with respect and courtesy. If you know what internal processes someone is using you can tail or your words to fit his or her representational system.” (Laborde p59)

Given the premise that individuals display identifiable behavioral patterns, a style instrument like the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) becomes a valuable tool in helping people predict strengths, needs, concerns or potential problem areas in any human relations situations. Research sets up a framework that recommends that our behavior is shaped or at least profoundly influenced by our natural style characteristics, and that the natural progression of development in situations would be to diagnose, understand, relate and finally, generalize to situation with the school system.The brain researchers, now,are becoming aware that a persons temperament dramatically affects his/her approach and reaction to the surrounding world. They also are very aware that biology has a greater affect than they previously thought when considering an individuals reaction to events. Scientists are beginning to mention temperament in addition to other influences that have significant impact on the development of an individual. Dr. Herbert Melter of Case Western University Medical School in Cleveland suggests, “It’s quite possible that by the twenty-first century there will be a biology of temperament and character that can help us understand ourselves as a species”(Kotuluk p106)
“Put to the test, this traditional nursery rhyme (Monday’s Child is fair of face,Tuesday’s Child is full of grace, etc.) would be a poor predictor of a child’s personality or temperament. However, its underlying notion-that we are somehow born to be ‘full of woe’ or bonny, and blithe’ -turns out to have some basis in biology. Neuroscientists and psychologists are producing a growing body of evidence that one’s predisposition to view the glass as half full or half empty, or to be shy or outgoing, may have biological determinants…Research conducted during the course of more that two decades by DR. Jerome Kagan, a professor of psychology at Harvard University and the director of the MInd-Brain- Behavior Initiative at Harvard University, suggests that our individual brain chemistries bias us, even as infants, to react to the events of life with equanimity or fear. kagan and a number of other investigators have found striking correlations between, on the one hand, such physiological measurements as heart rate and brain activity and, on the other, observably timid or fearless behavior. These studies offer fascinating clues to the question of how we become who we are. But biology is not necessarily destiny, Kagan emphasizes. Parents, society, and we ourselves have a hand in shaping the way we react to what life throws our way.” (Conlan p29,30)

Temperament research suggests that, through the use of an individual style instrument, like the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, we are given an accurate understanding of a person’s temperament thus we are able to make accurate predictions about motivation and choices to be made in relation to preferred ways of dealing within the structure of any situation. Whether adult or student, the suggestion from researchers is that, our most profound choices are governed by our personality/temperament. Although each individual with the structure is unique there exists a very complex framework by which predictions can be made. Style/temperament instruments provide a wealth of information about the complexity of the individual and the unique variations within patterns of temperament that clearly exist. These theories go on to explain how this information can be used to humanize organizations.

“The theory and data on type differences in education helps explain underachievement and overachievement. Type (temperament) theory permits an educated guess about the application and interest students will bring to their studies… Since the aim of education is for all types to achieve and complete their studies credibly, the importance of the data on type differences occur so that students can plan their learning and teachers their instruction to maximize the aptitude, interest and application of all…” (Myers & Mc Caulley, p96)

Although we acknowledge the concept of individual learning differences in theory we very often deny it in practice. (Lawrence, Provost, Briggs-Myer) Temperament theory not only helps predict ways of keeping the communication process open it also allows staff to anticipate and then create more effective learning situations for all students. Temperament/personality theory is especially useful in offering insight into fragile disconnected students and suggests strategies for supporting their development both academically and personally; however, it has also been suggested that fragile students might not have been so fragile if their learning preferences had been anticipated and honoured to begin with.

Our educational systems profess and even require through policy the acceptance of and recognition of individual differences but “drop outs, push outs and disruptions are symptoms of problems in our educational system and in our society.” (McCaulley & Natter p99) We cannot continue to lose large numbers of students whose difficulty in school is not that they are intellectually incapable but rather that their style/type/ temperament is in direct opposition to the structure and existing organization of the classes they find themselves in. Isabel Briggs Myers explains that her type instrument does not measure the ‘quantitative differences’ in students but rather it measures ‘qualitative differences’ in their preferences. Theorists stress that students definitely react very differently to formal education, to studying situations, to instructional methods and to the organizational structure of a school system. We as educators, cannot afford to ignore the wealth of potential, we might be wasting, in many of our young people.

Researchers have consistently suggested that “temperament is primary, and predisposes the person to certain ways of thinking, wanting, emoting and acting. Thus, each of the personality styles has its own way of learning, its own way of being motivated, its own way of relating to others and its own way of being satisfied.” (Golay p25) As schools assess their understanding of students brains, hearts and temperament we will be better able to aid individuals to cope with the organizational structure of educational institutions whether those individuals be administrator, teachers, support staff, students or parents.

The following visual shows the types of individuals a style instrument like the MBTI indicates and how they are interacting in a regular classroom setting. This type of information  is significant in that it strongly suggests we are able to predict accurately that certain temperament types do make very significant choices is an educational setting. They choose drama or music or science or they choose to drop out of school or get help before they hit the wall.

When doing some graduate work many years ago (1988-91) I set out to study some of the most notable predictions MBTI researchers were making at the time, relating to temperament and the learning process. Over a 20 year period the theory proved itself when looking at staff profiles, student and parent profiles.

The most notable predictions based on the learning process seem to often revolve around the S – N scale, the J-P scale IN – ES differences and SJ, SP, NF, NT temperaments. It has been suggested (Briggs-Myers , Chillenden, Bussis, Amarel, Courtney , Hammer, McCaulley & Natter ) that Sensing types (S) get behind in school almost instantly because of their natural tendency to be accurate, tackling one word at a time never skimming, often not using context clues or phrasing techniques. Intuitive (N) types get ahead instantly because of their ability to sacrifice accuracy for the sake of getting on with reading. N is associated with comprehension, inferred meaning and abstract concepts rather than the S’s practical, seeing all the facts, never missing a detail approach to reading. Little S’s remain on word one or two of the story, waiting for the teacher to help with word three, while N’s have read only half the words but understand the story is about a dog. The researchers suggestion was that S’s often stay behind in school for the remainder of their lives and N’s progress much more quickly because of a predisposition for symbolic/abstract learning.

The other prediction that researchers suggested be explored was the relationship between J and P. As you can see from the charts( see Statistics section). J’s rarely ever leave school and P’s leave on mass. This trend is extensively studied in the PLP section of this manual. Another very interesting type related speculation suggests that schools are in fact biased to IN types and that the bias must be corrected through instruction. “Recognizing that biases are largely unconscious and unintended it must be pointed out, however, that intellectual success is usually determined by IN types. The writers of textbooks, standardized tests and intellectual tests are mostly IN’s and their standards seem to be held sacred even by the opposite but most commonly found teacher types ESFJ. There are other ways of assessing intelligence, for promoting learning and growth, and for recognizing the abilities of EN and other types. It is time to stop neglecting the learning style and developmental needs of the majority of the students.” (Hoffman, Betkowski 22) Given that IN’s control much of the structure of the learning in schools, administered by SJ’s, the above Hoffman Betkowski view is quite frightening given the prediction of Keirsey and Bates who have suggest that IN’s comprise only a small percentage of the general population.

One other rather frightening prediction that comes out of the research on temperament and type (Brownsword Golay , Keirsey & Bates ) is the suggestion that of four temperament styles SJ, SP, NF, NT one group will leave school more often than other types. All three theorists predict that SP’s will leave school more often than other types. This I have confirmed in the studies I have done over the years. SJ’s predominate in the teaching profession, SP’s leave more readily than other temperament groups and NF’s are at risk most often but they ask for help and access any alternate program that is offered. Please the attached statistical views  in the STATISTICS SECTION referring to many of the above predictions.


#1 The above visual represents  a classroom of 35 students each with very different characteristics.This classroom grid further describes the visual to follow.

#2 Please notice that in a class of 35 students the interests your students have is quite mind numbing. The top left corner group SJ’s want to follow all your rules. They will be on time and arrive with flowers and good wishes. The bottom left group are also SJ’s but a more out going variety. They need their friends but they too will arrive to class on time and be ready to work. The center left are the SP’s . They really need their freedom and even at this age they are beginning to feel restless within the structure of school. They will amuse,charm and entertain you or fix anything in the room that is broken. Keep them busy and they will be so pleased. They have difficulty seeing the practical reason why they should in school. The top right quadrant are the IN’s they love school and intellectual pursuits however they are very private and would much prefer to be reading or doing a solitary task. The middle left group love to act, create invent or discover and the bottom left group will lead your group even if no one wants to follow. They are so sure of the vision they rarely look back to see if anyone is following, however, they always have a crowd to play to and their self esteem rarely is ruffled.

Also look very carefully at the J and P scale.This scale holds and enormous clue to why students leave school. The FP combination also is significant. See the statistics section to observe real choices of real students.

Addtional Research Suggests:

Several researchers have, in fact, measured differences in a baby’s frontal lobe, depending on temperament, emotional response, and even his or her mother’s mood…All of these new findings on babies’ temperaments help us better understand how a child’s brain develops and how we can enrich this growth and increase ability. this is because the parts of the brain that process emotion grow and mature relatively early in a child and are very sensitive to parental feedback and handling. (Diamond & Hopson p123,124)

“Students of the brain know a great deal about the roles of …brain regions, and know a substantial amount, as well, about how these emotional structures and circuits unfold as the infant grows…They know that the reticula system ( a set of nerve tracks in the brain stem) is fairly mature at birth, since the baby’s brain stem is itself already fully functioning to regulate the newborn’s heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and calmness or anxiety” (Diamond & Hopson125)

“Most neuroscientists now argue that the biological organ inside our skulls is both source and repository of our elusive identity and of all aspects of cognition and emotion. The balance of chemicals in our individual brains may predispose us to react to life’s ups and downs with a characteristic tranquillity or agitation. disturbances of that chemical balance can trigger mood disorders and mental illness. And burgeoning research into the connection between the brain and the body is reinforcing the idea that the influence flows in both directions-that is, our attitudes and emotions, once regarded as purely a function of ‘mind’ can affect the health of the body, and vice versa…Your particular array of genes we were born with may make us susceptive to manic-depressive illness or alcoholism, for example, but an environmental trigger, or ‘second hit,’ must activate the genes in question in order to make us ill or alcoholic. So although we may not be able to modify our genetic inheritance, Hyman reminds us that the brain is phenomenally responsive to experience. If the brain can learn addition, for example, it can also be taught to unlearn it.”(Conlan ed p3,4)

“…any predisposition conferred by our genetic endowment is far from being a life sentence;there is no inevitable adult outcome of a particular infant temperament. As neruoscientists are discovering, the brain is a remarkably adaptable and malleable organ, especially early in life. Even though research suggests that inherited neurochemistries, whatever they may turn out to be, bias young children to react in particular ways- running away from strange people and strange circumstances or embracing the new with enthusiasm- the child’s interactions with family, teachers, and peers can shape that predisposition significantly. where some event happens will-nilly, on purpose, or by accident, we learn and change in response to these interactions, to experiences of caring or abuse, even to the experience of, say, a severe childhood illness. By the time a child is only two years of age, his or her temperament is already part of a tapestry who’s biological and environmental threads are so tightly woven as to be impossible to tease apart.” (Conlan Ed p32)

“…despite an initial temperamental bias, each child’s environment has an important influence on his or her developing profile…if subjected to trauma or abuse, or even less dramatic environmental stress, can lose their released style. but it was rare for them to become consistently inhibited…” (Conlan ED p41)


“Underscoring the give-and-take of genes and environment is the fact that it is very difficult to change one’s inherited temperamental predisposition completely. Even though children with high-reactive temperaments can learn to overcome their fears, to the point whereby appear to be as confident and outgoing as most other children, it is extremely rare for a high-reactive child to show, over the years, the vitality, fearlessness, and emotional spontaneity that is characteristic of most low-reactive children. (Conlan Ed p 41)

“research on the relationship between the biological underpinnings of temperament and the environmental influence of parents and society holds several implications for the developing behavior of the growing child. Depending on environmental circumstances and events, innate temperamental inclinations can have both adaptive and maladaptive outcomes. (Conlan EDp48,9)

“Given that stress is very much an individual matter-what’s stressful for one person isn’t necessarily stressful for another person-what are the factors that determine vulnerability, distress, and allostatic load? Genetic predisposition and early trauma can contribute to a lifelong pattern of emotional responsiveness-that is, a tendency to be hypersensitive to mildly stressful events, or even to events that wouldn’t even register on most other people’s stress meter. Conversely, some people seem to thrive on stressful conditions. (Conlan Ed p99)


“Just as studies show stress tends to blunt the body’s immune responses, making us more susceptive to infection and disease, research also shows that a supportive social environment or group therapy, by reducing stress hormone levels, can enhance immune response, including resistance to such diseases as cancer…Recognizing out individual styles of handling stress-whether we’re prone to just feel anxious, for example, or talk to a friend, or head out the door for a run-can help us modify our stress responses if necessary, and can help maintain optimal activity of the immune system and a balance of health. (Conlan Ed p121)
xxxNotes from before Mike Merzenich of the University of California, San Francisco experiment and made a significant finding notes pg174xxx “All of us- even identical twins that share the same genes-are brought up in uniquely different social environments. We interact with different people, have different experiences in the world. As we learn from each of these experiences, the genetic switches in our brain cells are turned on or off, producing structural changes that make each of our brains unique. (Conlan Ed p 176)

****whether or not the temperament of the care giver is outgoing or reflective it is essential to be aware of the stages of child development and deal with the need of the child at any given level xxx “The traits of the care giver are often thought to be positives or negative in their own right, but in our developmental model their influence depends on the particular stage the child has reached. A child needs one sort of nurturing in the first stage, when she is learning to achieve calm attention, and quite another as she moves toward complex gestural communication or symbolism. an interactive style that teaches attention or encourages falling in love may fail to teach a capacity to think or imagine, and vice versa…Each developmental stage influences the outcome of the interactions between nature and nurture. The child’s mastery of the task at each stage depends on how well her human and physical surroundings mesh with her own physical characteristics. the nature of her needs are also affected by how well her development went at earlier stages. Neither nature nor nurture, therefore, is a fixed entity.” (Greenspan p137,8)


“Whether children’s temperaments are innate has inspired a great deal of research over the years…Many researchers argue that a person’s basic temperament or approach to the world remains strikingly consistent through the life span… the work on temperament by the pioneers Stella Chess and Alexander Thomas and their followers has helped both families and child development experts appreciate that no method of care giving, discipline, or education suits all or even most children.” (Green span p138)


“Children also differ in how they comprehend their world. One might have a tin ear that confuses sounds but an architect’s eye for figuring out how things relate to each other spatially. Another could be just the opposite, an acute and perceptive listener who tends to find spatial relationships bewildering. some children have low muscle tone, so that even holding up their heads or turning to look in one or another direction requires extraordinary energy…these physiological patterns appear to be influenced by heredity as well as by factors in the prenatal environment…” (Greenspan p140)


“The analogy of a lock and key helps us to understand the relationship between nature and nurture. A baby’s characteristic strengths and weaknesses are like a lock that will open only if fitted with the right key. A number of keys will work, but an even larger number wouldn’t. to help the infant progress through the stages of development, the care giver must find keys- that is to say, patterns of interaction and response-that will help the child use her biological gifts to master the tasks of the stage she has reached. Every child, of course, complicates the challenges of parenthood by periodically changing the tumblers in the lock each time she reaches anew developmental stage. whether and when her parents can repeatedly find the keys that will release her potential vastly influences the child’s emerging personality…psychological traits in themselves do not necessarily limit or define a child’s potential. Moreover, the more compromised a child’s endowment, short of massive and incapacitating damage, the more powerful and decisive the influence of the nurturing he receives. A child who is physiologically well equipped to master a given developmental task will probably succeed at it despite mediocre nurturing, whereas one with fragile abilities may not attain mastery unless his surroundings provide exactly the help he needs…with care giving geared to their individual differences, many youngsters born with even serious weakness can and do achieve healthy mental development.” (Greenspan p143)


“…people habitually differ in how they modulate their stress-responses with psychological variables. Your style, your temperament, your personality have much to do with whether you regularly perceive opportunities for control or safety signals when they are there, whether you consistently interpret ambiguous circumstances as implying good news or bad, whether you typically seek out and take advantage of social support. Some folks are good at modulating stress in these ways, and others are terrible.” (Sapolsky p262)

SEE ALSO:  Personality Preferences  or  TV, Movie and Fictional Character Preferences

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