Book Review

An Education: Personality Types in the Classroom

Robert N
Written by Robert N

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Title: Effective Teaching, Effective Learning: Making the Personality Connection in Your Classroom
Author: Alice M. Fairhurst, Lisa L. Fairhurst
Date of Publication: October 18, 1995
Publishing Company: Davies-Black Publishing

Summary: Effective Teaching Effective Learning provides a brief overview of MBTI theory, descriptions of each of the 16 types’ teaching styles, learning styles of the 16 MBTI types of students, and practical applications in terms of classroom techniques.

The Good: A good book to start making the MBTI connection in the classroom
The Bad: Some chapters feel cursory

Overall Rating: 8/10
Type Accuracy: Insightful
Recommended For: beginning or intermediate MBTI enthusiasts who are educators or parents

The final bell rang for me as a student teacher. On the last day of school, as part of tradition, the teachers, including myself, walked out side by side to bid our middle schoolers a fond farewell. As I stood there waiting, a tiny sixth grade girl with braided hair timidly walked towards me, a gift cupped in her hands. She was one of my favorite students. I smiled as she approached, her head bowed in deep reverence. She smiled as I gave a slight bow and unfolded my hands to graciously accept the gift in her hand-—a gift that she probably saved her lunch money for weeks to purchase. It was a great moment. That is, until she gave it to the science teacher standing next to me. I watched, my arms embarrassingly shifting into retract mode, as he opened it. It was a deep-sea blue, floating sand timer. After sleepless nights of lesson planning and grading, and days of teaching and tutoring students until sunset, there was only one logical thought: Hey! Why don’t I get a sand timer?! It was then that I realized that my teaching inspired anything but gifts of adoration. In fact, on my watch, my mutinous crew of students destroyed a whiteboard, projector screen, an identical floating sand timer (belonging to my master teacher), looted fifty dollars worth of school supplies, and all but completed a coup d’etat. Over the previous five months, I watched my last hopes for a letter of recommendation drift away. What a shipwreck of a semester.

So where did I go wrong? While my Common Core textbook and emphasis on VARK strategies provided a start to differentiating learning for students, there was something more to the equation. Something I was forgetting. Me. How do I fit in as a teacher? Being a fan of personality theory and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a test sorting people into 16 unique categories, led me to this book by Alice M. Fairhurst and Lisa L. Fairhurst: Effective Teaching, Effective Learning: Making the Personality Connection in Your Classroom. While it’s not a magic pill, it provides a good overview of the different personality types in the classroom. At it’s best, it offered me insight on how to be the teacher I was meant to be.

The book begins by outlining the fundamentals of personality type for the uninitiated, and then breaks down the different teaching styles of the 16 types. It contains sections on student learning styles and classroom techniques, exploring a number of different teaching methods and the personality types that work best with each method. The book ends with strategies on how to implement this knowledge.

Like most people, I am a courteous narcissist at heart, so I skimmed a few sections before jumping 50 pages to what I was really after: information on my own personality type. I was excited to find brief but insightful information on my teaching style. For instance, Fairhurst states that my temperament prefers teaching at any other level—from preschool to university—over middle school, something I wish I knew before filling in my student teaching placement questionnaire with, “I don’t know where to go. Wherever you think is good.”

Following the section on teaching styles, the book does a good job of examining the learning styles of the 16 types. For each type, it provides basic characteristics, potential career paths, preferred classes, common behaviors, discipline issues, academic orientation issues, and interpersonal behavior problems. Each student type was accurate and insightful, reframing a lot of what I already knew about personality theory in a classroom context. Fairhurst organizes and writes in a style similar to David Keirsey in Please Understand Me II. It is factual, easy to follow, and contains real examples of student behavior based on type.

Still, the book left me wanting more. For instance, Fairhurst describes my temperament’s biggest weaknesses as the need to “be more assertive”. Yes, something I can definitely work on (the haunting memory of standing helpless before an unruly class flashes in my mind). But how? How can I be more assertive? Tell me more than “the more strategies [you] learn for dealing with discipline, the more comfortable and effective [you] will become.” Give me the means to fight injustice. To turn fear against those who prey on the fearful. And a cape.

The final chapter, “Teaching and Learning Styles in Action”, comes the closest to showing The Way; it includes how-to guides on measuring the effectiveness of a teaching method and working with difficult students. Unfortunately, the entire chapter is only 7 pages long, and it provides only one brief example for each guide. Isn’t it always the things we need most that are lacking?

Ultimately, the strength of the book is the expansive framework it provides for MBTI enthusiasts to connect their personality knowledge in the classroom. It is a great resource for teachers to explore the personality dimension of their craft, but it is more a starting point than a final destination. Instead of answers, it begs questions. Why do we teach? What can I do to inspire and unlock the hidden potential of each and every student in the classroom? And most importantly, how can I get a floating sand timer next year?

About the author

Robert N

Robert N

Analyst, developer, and writer at youtopiaproject.com, Robert enjoys basketball, banh mi, and browsing Netflix. He spends his summers at his Breezehome cottage in Whiterun.

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