Monday, January 23, 2012

Education for the Masses?

Nearly 20 years ago, M. Robert Mulholland Jr. wrote in Invitation to a Journey that we do a disservice to students (disciples) by promoting methods (spiritual disciplines) that work for the teacher. Given that we have different personalities, those methods may not work. What works for an INTJ (according to the Myers Briggs test) will not work for an ESFP.

I won't spend much time on the differences between the different characteristics. You can go to Wikipedia (on days that it's not self-censored).

His perception fits with what I've discovered: that we tend to teach in the manner we want to learn and it doesn't always work. In fact, it rarely works. If I like learning on my own with a book, I may not teach wholeheartedly, expecting the students to study on their own. Others that have more E in them would appreciate more class discussion because they'll get energized by the group discussion. Likewise, a feeling person will want to know how the information affects relationships or give some credence to past emotional experiences. A thinking student will only care about the analysis and theoretical, most likely wanting to know purposes and wherefores behind any recommendations. And so on.

This conflict between teacher and student can be disruptive. It will also affect performance appraisals and feedback between managers and employees. A manager's suggestions will fail to be accepted because the method can be adopted easily and its effectiveness will be questionable. Therefore, repeated failures to show improvement will hinder the employee and be reflected in the feedback the manager gives. "Why aren't you improving? Here let me show you again?" (Or "Go look at the procedure for the third time.")

If we can't learn what our employees' preferred learning styles might be, it might be helpful to know what their MBTI profile is. Perhaps there are other references that can help you adapt education methods to better meet their needs. If not, check out Mulholland's book.

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