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Personality and Learning Styles Materials


Drs. Bill and Lynn Kirby retired from UW-SP's School of Education several years ago and have very generously allowed me to copy their materials on learning and personality styles so that these valuable resources remain active. I have revised some of the information below and I have taken out personal references to their styles, but left the rest of the material in tact. Thank you Bill and Lynn.

Myers Briggs (MBTI) and Keirsey's Temperaments

Some of the work in this section is all of Leslie's, while others have been adapted by Leslie from the work of Lynn and Bill Kirby with their permission

Why bother?

Understanding personality types can be a very useful tool in all aspects of life -- personal, social, professional. This information can be especially helpful in professions that require high levels of interpersonal interactions. With this knowledge you can become more aware of your own characteristics and traits, strengths and weaknesses. You can also better understand the different talents and perspectives of others as understanding personality types can smooth working and personal relations through improved levels of communication and interactions.

There are a few things that are very important to understand about  personality distinctions.

  • There are no right or wrong personalities. Even though you may find it hard to get along with or understand other personality types, their perspectives and views are just as valid as yours.

  • However, there may be personality traits that are more suited for certain aspects of designated jobs. For instance, if a person were extremely introverted and private, even though he/she may be able to be an excellent salesperson, this may be an unpleasant job for him/her due to his/her need to draw energy from within. Indeed, both the military and business have used personality indicators to helping place workers in optimal vocational situations for over 1/2 century.    

  • It is important to remember that humans are complex being and to some degree everyone has all the personality characteristics. However, over a lifetime we develop preferences. These preferences become somewhat set around the early to mid-twenties, and may be due to either genetic predispositions, contact with strong role models, or parental or environmental demands. But, it is important to remember that everyone has the ability to use all 4 sets of polarities - both I and E, S and N, T and F, and J and P. There is no such thing as a personality or learning style disability.

Some of the particulars:

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is related to work by Carl Jung, and has 16 distinct, but interrelated, personality types. These types are based on four main variables: 

  • introvert/extrovert (I/E)
  • sensor/intuitive (S/N)
  • feeling/thinking (F/T)
  • judger/perceiver (J/P)

Most people develop preferences for one or the other of each of these pairs, for instance being more extraverted than introverted. Within the MBTI classifications there are16 possible combinations from four sets of traits.

Here is Bill Kirby's interpretation of looking at and describing the 16 types.

For more information on the variables, see the Kirby's Notes on Myers-Briggs personality variables.

Collapsed versions of the MBTI:

David Keirsey has worked extensively in this area and has a very comprehensive website devoted to promoting his work. You can take an abbreviated version of his test on the Internet, The Keirsey Temperament Sorter II. Look in the top right hand area for free test info. Do not register for a fee.

There are three other online tests you might be interested in taking, two are free: one from HumanMetrics (73 questions). From this information, and by reading the varied descriptors you can estimate your type, which is typically expressed in four letters, such as ESTJ or INFP. The Paragon Learning Styles Test parallels MBTI classifications. TypeLogic (a commercial site offering products for sale) gives good descriptions of each of the 16 types, as well. 

Like many other personality style developers Keirsey collapsed the original MBTI 16 types into four main temperaments, Guardians, Artisans, Idealists, and Rationals. He based this on the combinations of certain pairs of letters, as such:
  • Guardians = Myer-Briggs letters of xSxJ
  • Artisans     = Myer-Briggs letters of xSxP
  • Idealists     = Myer-Briggs letters of xNFx
  • Rationals   = Myer-Briggs letters of xNTx

For some people, thinking in terms of simplified 4 temperaments is a quicker and easier way to understand other people.

Teachers,  may use personality inventories, theories, related research, and representative learning strategies as a tool to monitor their interactions with students and to make sure they are offering balanced instructional choices.

However, using these materials comes with a warning. Because students are in the process of becoming and at different developmental stages, they are exploring the varied aspects and dimensions of their personalities before settling on their own set of preferences. Indeed, preferences are not thought to settle until the early to mid-twenties. The job of good teachers is not to make students mirror their realities and personalities, or to pigeon hole students into some type, the job of a good teacher is to learn how to best reach all types of students and make an attempt to learn about the students' different realities and stylistic preferences.

The best teachers use personality and related learning style theories to help students reach their full innate potential, and to offer varied and diverse instructional choices that are balanced to a number of learning styles. This approach helps students explore the nooks and crannies of their unique metacognitive structures, it aids students in finding study skills and intellectual habits that are effective at individual levels, and this process helps facilitate life-long learning. These are the reasons why personality theories and learning styles are important things for teachers to know and understand.

Other Resources

  • Please Understand Me II by Keirsey
  • Type Talk by Kroeger and Thuesen
  • Type Talk at Work by Kroeger and Thuesen
  • Gifts Differing by Myers-Briggs, I.
  • People types and tiger stripes by Lawerence, G
  • Understanding yourself and others: An introduction to temperament by Berens, L.V.
  • Dynamics of personality type: Understanding and applying Jung's cognitive processes by Berens, L.V.
  • Bill Kirby's MBTI Matrix
  • Also see my many resources in this area at - learning styles and personality styles

some of this has been adapted from the materials of William H. Kirby, original copyright, 1997


Copyright Leslie Owen Wilson,2005