Learning Style: MBTI
By developing individual strengths, guarding against weaknesses, and appreciating the strengths of other types, life will be more amusing, more interesting, and more of a daily adventure than it could possibly be if everyone were alike.
~Isabel Briggs Myers
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) was first published in 1943 by Katharine Briggs and her mother, Isabel Myers based on the research and work of Carl Jung. The purpose of this tool began as an opportunity for individuals to understand themselves and each other better, identifying sixteen different personality types. Yet, it has grown to be used for a variety of additional purposes such as determining learning styles.
For learners, the MBTI demonstrates a preferred mode of motivation and interest in topics, confirms how individuals process and collect knowledge and information, in addition to pointing out learning preferences such as format, process and environmental predilections. Within the sixteen different types, distinct and effective learning methods are specified. Academic advantages and disadvantages are discovered to be associated with the type preferences in addition to writing styles (Myers, et. al., 2009).
The sixteen personality types is based upon the work of Carl Jung’s theory of psychological type which describes an individual’s personality within four dimensions: where attention is focused: extraverted (E) versus introverted (I); the method information is received: intuition (N) verses sensing (S); how decisions are made: feeling (F) versus thinking (T); and how individuals interact with the world: judging (J) verses perceiving (P). From each of these pairs, a personality leans toward one side, demonstrating a preference, creating a four letter code such as ISTJ (Myers, 1998).
Within Jung’s theory, four basic functions exist which everyone uses. These function relate to perceptions and judgments. Individuals demonstrate a favor toward one of two perceptions: sensing (S) and intuition (N). Sensing is related to the input of information through the five senses. “Persons oriented to sensing tend to focus on the immediate experiences available to their five senses” (Myers, et. al, 2003, p.24). This type of perceiver experiences and observers in the moment, often neglecting future plans.
Intuition perceivers look at the world through insight. “People who prefer intuition may develop the characteristics that can follow from that emphasis and become imaginative, theoretical, abstract, future oriented and original or creative. … [They] may also become so intent on pursuing possibilities that they overlook actualities” (Myers, et. al, 2003, p.24).
Thinking (T) and Feeling (F) relate to the methods by which reason is regarded and are referred to as the two kinds of judgment. Thinking is a function wherein decisions are made through a linking of ideas or by making logical connections. Feeling takes a different approach by relying on values. Feelers will evaluate the values of themselves or of the groups and are more subjective than their Thinking counterparts.
- “Sensing (S) seeks the fullest possible expereince of what is immediate and real.
- Intuition (N) seeks the furthes reaches of the possible and imaginative.
- Thinking (T) seeks rational order in accord with the nonpersonal logic of cause and effect.
- Feeling (F) seeks rational order in accord with the creation and maintenanc eof harmony amoung important subjective values” (Myers, et. al, 2003, p.25).
The four orientations represent two kinds of energy and two kids of attitudes or orientations. Energy is derived from two sources, either externally or internally. An extraverted (E) attitude receives energy from interactions with the outside world and other people. They tend to be associated with extraversion, being “eager to interact with the outer world; an action oriented, sometimes impulsive way of meeting life …” (Myers, et. al, 2003, p.26). In contract, the introverted (I) attitude replenishes energy through quiet reflection, examining ideas, concepts and connecting inner experiences. Introversion will think things through rather than talk things through.
The orientations refer to how an individual perceives the outer world through perceiving or judging. Perceiving (P) persons are attune to information being received. They tend to be “spontaneous, curious, adaptable, and open to what is new and changeable” (Myers, et. al, 2003, p.27). Judging seeks to have closure, planning or organizing. This personality trait should not be confused with judgmental. Judging refers to how an individual interact with the outer world in a decision making role.
- Extraversion (E) seeks to interact with their environment, gaining energy through interactions and experiences.
- Introversion (I) seeks to energy through quiet, inner reflection, focusing on the internal.
- Perceiving (P) seeks to understand the outer world through interaction as long as possible.
- Judging (J) seeks to come to a conclusion, needing organization, decisive action and purpose.
The four orientations represent two kinds of energy and two kids of attitudes or orientations. The combination of which indicate a personality type which in turn also indicates a particular learning style.
ISFJs are energized by applying what they are learning, especially when examples are used. They have an innate ability to scaffold new information into existing schemas with seemingly no effort. Yet, they still need to be able to see and understand the relevance of new knowledge, preferring a systematic method for learning.
ISFJs are very curious learners who enjoy studying additional information from other sources. They thrive on adding depth to their knowledge. They also possess an ability to retain facts. They are good at learning, focusing and concentrating for long periods of time.
ISFJs prefer to learn factual and practical information over theory.
ESFJs are most interested in learning facts and information about people or related to relationships. They need active communication to learn, learning from verbally working through information. They are both hardworking and conscientious learners.
ESFJs want all learners to be happy and to this end they search for ways to implement what they are learning. They will look for ways to immediately implement what they are learning, seeking the best outcome for all. Engaging all senses and emotions helps the ESFJ to integrate and recall knowledge.
ESFJs prefer to learn in an organized manner. They prefer order and sequential instructions They have strong time management skills. They possess a preference to learn practical information, theory being a frustrater.
ISTJs prefer to use knowledge to gain experience and in practical application. Knowledge needs to have a logical flow with a systematic, step by step instructions.
ISTJs need to understand the details in what they are doing and how these details apply to life. They possess a linear, organized and even systematic method to thinking. They are detail-oriented, preferring specificity to vague generalities, being fact driven.
ISTJs enjoy experiencing, doing and practicing. They like proof and practicing helps to solidify the proof they need as they experience the practical application. They are good at focusing and can concentrate for long periods of time. Rational and logic drive their learning process, especially when attached to a clear goal or desirable product.
ISTJs are motivated by personal achievement, status and recognition within their learning.
ISFPs seek aesthetic pleasure through learning. They enjoy engaging emotions into the learning process which helps them to retain new information. Active learning, participation and sensory stimulation are the root foundations for exceptional learning opportunities. They need personal involvement in their learning process.
Although they need the be actively engaged in the learning process, they still require the opportunity to think before speaking, which is common to introverts.
ISFPs are detail-oriented learners, preferring the details over the general concepts and theory. They quickly learn and retaining knowledge, especially when associated with personal and human values.
Practical knowledge has great value to ISFPs. They make quick connections to prior knowledge, efficiently scaffolding information. They are experts at memorization, doing, and experiencing knowledge.
Despite these attributes, occasionally the ISFPs will cram. The most fulfillment they receive in learning is when it benefits others and their social circles.
ESTJs are energized through interactions with other people and practical applications. They thrive on logical frameworks, devoid of emotion. ESTJs are highly organized learners being both decisive and analytical in their approach to knowledge. They prefer knowledge linked to facts and figures. Statistics help to solidify the veracity of information as they tend to be critical until proof is presented.
ESTJs will quickly apply any information they learn. They are verbal learners, preferring to process their thinking out loud. They enjoy analyzing, focusing and possess an exceptional ability to focus.
ESTJs are most fulfilled in their learning when they feel that they are more productive than their peers.
ESFPs are practical learners above all else. They ESFPs prefer practical applications and real-world experiences. Although ESFPs possess an incredible wealth of information and general knowledge, they still need a logical flow for the knowledge to be integrated into existing schemas.
ESFPs are highly social, needing interactions and to be physically active in learning. They are observant and spontaneous. They value new experiences and verbally processing information.
ESFPs are driven by the educational possibility of using knowledge to bring joy to others.
ENFPs are most interested in information and knowledge related to people and relationships. They enjoy analyzing their feelings toward the information and hearing the opinions of others. They are highly focused on growth and development.
ENFPs tend to procrastinate assessments and assignments. This is not a reflection of their interest in the topic. They easily learn material but prefer to focus on theory.
ENFPs are idealistic individuals who like to develop their own opinions. They do not like to be told what they think. They enjoy scaffolding knowledge into existing schemas and search for patterns in learning. They look to the future when learning, noting how knowledge can be applied to solve current situations.
ENFPs are most motivated to learn when they see a relationship between the classroom instruction and immediate application.
ISTPs are most interested in learning how the information will help them to achieve their goals and how things work. They learn best through practical application as well as active application. However, they are independent learners. ISTPs enjoy complex challenges and problem solving.
ISTPs like to investigate the small details and look at sequential information. They are most intrigued by logical and linear learning.
ISTPs are quick to apply learning and knowledge to their situations. The will devote themselves to learning until they master the content. Yet they are highly critical of themselves.
ISTPs are driving by a desire to learn skills and to be actively it to use.
INFPs have the greatest desire to find solutions for all humanity. They prefer to engage emotions and aesthetics in learning. They are especially good at theory, particularly when associated with the humanities. They enjoy both the depth and breadth of material.
INFPs have an internal compass based on intuition which directs their actions and learning. They are independent learners, motivated by interpersonal and human values. They lean toward any knowledge which will improve the lives of others.
INFPs are personal learners, enjoying both abstractions and patterns.
ESTPs easily retain information which has a practical application. They prefer to learn concrete, factual information with a real-world application. They want to solve real world problems.
ESTPs are spontaneous, highly active learners who prefer competition and a wide variety of learning options. They are a hand-on learner, needing time to manipulate and to process information verbally.
INTPs can easily comprehend complicated and complex information. They can also easily assimilate practical information as well as conceptual knowledge. They search for theories to learn. They prefer deep, analytical information and swiftly make connections between real-world applications and classroom knowledge
INTPs are logical and analytical thinkers who enjoy solving problems. They like to research and enjoy learning. They enjoy demonstrating what they know and their competence which they achieve through asking questions to complete their understanding.
INTPs are problem solvers. They are stimulated by ideas, particularly focusing on abstract applications and patterns which may cause them to overlook some details.
ENTPs are clever, creative and imaginative learners. They easily grasp and see information from multiple angles. They enjoy being challenged and learning complex material or concepts, especially when it has a practical application.
ENTPs are flexible learners, but they are also restless learners, needing constant activity and input. They are stimulated by ideas, theory and inspiration.
ENFJs are most energized by information which is beneficial to others. They are active learners, being physically active and intellectually active in searching for solutions. Practical applications appeal to the ENFJ.
ENFJs are fast learners who thrive in creative and imaginative atmospheres. They enjoy learning generalities and theories, details exasperating them. They easily pull out patterns.
INTJs are energized through searching for answers. They thrive on learning why and easily learn new information. They are highly accurate in reproducing visual information.
INTJs are planners. They are organized learners who plan their learning experiences. They enjoy asking questions and learning about theories as well as models.
INTJs are highly analytical, seeing practical applications for knowledge. They hold themselves to high learning standards, believing that all learning leads to improvement in self and others.
INTJs will build strong relationships with other learners who are determined to also be high-performing.
INTJs enjoy asking questions.
ENTJs are highly analytical thinkers, enjoying theory but still searching for active and practical applications for the information. They absorb information quickly being intrigued by ideas and theory.
ENTJs value the competency and mastery of information. They search out and create innovative and original solutions to problems. ENTJs tend to be perfectionistic in their acquisition of knowledge.
ENTJs are abstract thinkers. They are motivated by achievement and enjoy being in charge. They are natural leaders.
INFJs are energized by making connections between people, feelings, values and knowledge. They are visionaries who are future-oriented, always seeking and looking at possibilities. The often think metaphors.
INFJs are task-oriented learners who enjoy making connections, recognizing relationship between information. They enjoy playing with ideas and possibilities.
INFJs seek the purpose of learning to be for personal growth and development.
There are a variety of ways in which to receive a MBTI type. There are consultants, counselors, therapists and specialists who are certified to administer an authorized MBTI test. These specialists are trained in administering the test as well as discussing the results. Personal feedback is a valuable asset within this option.
There are many online versions available for the MBTI instrument. Some of these are authorized and others are not. There are even options which will give you a quick idea of your MTBI personality style. These options tend to have less detail, interaction with a certified specialist and lack in personalized feedback.
Learning styles, especially within the MBTI, have assets for learning. With guidance and reflection, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator aids in the discrimination of characteristics and attributes which contribute to more effective learning for individuals within their personality type. As an example, introverts tend to prefer quiet spaces to study and learn with little distraction or outside noises. The MBTI professes to also prescribe subjects, topics and what an individual would prefer to learn, indicating a preference toward mathematics, language, sciences and so forth (CPP, Inc., 2010).
The combination of the different orientations and functions create specific preferences which indicate personalized attributes for learning environments. The personality type is not a diagnosis to determine exact traits of learning environments or topics.
Acquiring a functioning knowledge of MBTI learning styles as related to students can aid an instructor in course and lesson development. This will assist in comprehension of material covered as well as higher order thinking skills. The converse is also true, opening doors of understanding for students to encounter items which may or may not be a strength. Understanding the weaknesses of students’ learning styles and preferences assists educators in morphing difficult situations or topics into manageable learning opportunities.
Understanding a diversity of learning introduces students to a diversity of personalities which may be encountered in real world situations outside of a classroom (Larkin-Hein, T. & Budny, D.B., 2017). Student also feel a lack of frustration in learning situations as they feel they have a more comprehensive understanding of themselves as learners in addition to being more flexible (CPP, Inc., 2010).
Much criticism has been generated to the validity and reliability of the MBTI with more than a 50% possibility of the results changing after a five week testing gap (Pittenger, 2005). Additionally, Pittenger cites the lack of evidence supporting types being prone to specialization in particular occupational fields with the hypothesis that such careers may demand specific characteristics which are then develop as a result.
Another caveat indicates the dichotomy between the two extremes. Individuals must be either one or the other with no shade of grey. Such implications prescribe individuals to a lack of diversity between the differentiate poles, disallowing a medium between the two extremes.
Additional weaknesses of MBTI learning styles align with current thinking on the disadvantages of learning styles theories in general.
Tracy Atkinson, mother of six, lives in the Midwest with her husband and spirited long-haired miniature dachshunds. She is a teacher, having taught elementary school to higher education, holding degrees in elementary education and a master’s in higher education. Her passion is researching, studying and investigating the attributes related to self-directed learners and learning styles. She has published several titles, including MBTI Learning Styles: A Practical Approach, The Art of Learning Journals, Calais: The Annals of the Hidden, Lemosa: The Annals of the Hidden, Book Two, Rachel’s 8 and Securing Your Tent. She is currently working on a non-fiction text exploring the attributes of self-directed learners: The Five Characteristics of Self-directed Learners.