Type, Worldview and Academic Success

Dilbert January 25, 2000

Dilbert January 25, 2000

This overview of research paradigms assembled by Laura Pasquini inspired me to share my own postpositivist worldview and the research shaping it. As a postpositivist, I search for context and believe that causes determine outcomes. Thus, when type assessments collected in my first-year seminar showed trends for population oversampling and type preferences relating to academic success, or the lack thereof, I had to do more digging.

Academic success in the first college semester is widely believed to affect the eventual success or graduation of the new college student.  The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® is not an identifier of visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning styles but is beneficial for assessment of learning preferences and processes rather than the learning behaviors of most learning style inventories (Jensen, 2003).  Jensen describes the MBTI® as the most comprehensive assessment of learning style assessments attributing to instrument norming, length of development time, and sixteen specific approaches to student learning.  He asserts that as the MBTI is a personality type assessment, and type is generally static, it is more useful than learning style assessments for measuring student behavior or performance which may fluctuate, dependent upon the learning experience.  As institution type and instructor type preferences can frequently differ from student type preferences, an understanding of type theory can assist educators and learners in goals of student success.

As students move toward campus integration they seek congruence and comfort in a campus culture.  Type theory and the MBTI can be helpful in moving students toward this goal.  Kalsbeek (1986, 2003) reported on the TRAILS tracking tool that aids university communities in reviewing MBTI data in comparison with available student data to provide a research base for retention strategies.  Students at a medium-size private university were administered the MBTI and consented to having their scores merged with ACT/SAT scores and other entry and demographic data sources.  Academic results, program of study and enrollment status of the students were tracked in subsequent semesters.  The tracking research found ACT/SAT scores as the best predictor of academic performance in the first semester but also revealed that Myers-Briggs preferences for Introversion, Perception and Intuition were found to be statistically significant in their influence on first semester grades.  Type data was also found to correlate with entering student profiles as to reasons for attending college, performance on college admission standardized tests and first-term academic achievement.  Each of these correlations is helpful to campus retention efforts by explaining possible shifts in college entry data and academic success.  As failure to find academic success is a major factor in student persistence, Kalsbeek (2003) emphasizes that the MBTI instrument is useful for academic success programs.  It can be used to identify special challenges for students, as a method for responding to students in need of academic support, and for “facilitating a good educational fit between the learner and the instructor,” (p. 109).

Jensen, G. H. (2003).  Learning styles. In J. A. Provost & S. Anchors (Eds.), Using the MBTI instrument in colleges and universities.  Gainesville, FL: Center for Applications of Psychological Type.

Kalsbeek, D. H. (1986, June).  Linking learning style theory with retention research: The TRAILS project. Paper presented at the Association for Institutional Research forum, Orlando FL.

Kalsbeek, D. H. (2003).  Campus retention: The MBTI instrument in institutional self-studies.  In J. A. Provost & S. Anchors (Eds.), Using the MBTI instrument in colleges and universities (pp. 87-122).  Gainesville, FL: Center for Applications of Psychological Type.


Choose Education

The only thing that’s more expensive than going to college is not going to college, so you really don’t have a choice. ~Anthony Carnevale

The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce released a study saying what those of us in higher education have been saying all along–your college education is a worthy investment.  You can listen to or read about it at this interview on NPR.

Try these statistics on for size:

The unemployment rate for all four-year college graduates is 4.5 percent, but the unemployment rate for recent four-year college graduates is more than 50 percent higher at 6.8 percent. At the same time, unemployment rates for recent high school graduates are near 24 percent.  ~Carnevale, Jayasundera and Cheah

Take that, Peter Thiel.

Record number of U.S. adults with college degrees

The Census Bureau announced that three in ten adults held a bachelor’s degree in 2011.  This is quite a jump considering that as recently as 1998 less than 25% of adults had a four-year degree. Regretfully, our global ranking for college degrees is still dropping. Despite continuing arguments about the value of certain degrees, it makes you think this whole college education thing may be catching on.

…the data suggest that going to school remains a shrewd investment. Median monthly pay for a professional degree reached $11,927 in 2009. That was more than twice the monthly pay for someone with a bachelor’s degree: $5,445. By contrast, a high school diploma was worth $3,179 a month, and an elementary school education yielded $2,136 a month.  ~Daniel de Vise, Washington Post

More on the value of a college education…

Future Earnings

Is College Worth It?

More Type Links in Student Success

I’ve got a problem. There are aspects of my personality that I can’t control. ~Bruce Banner

Much as student development theory helps us to understand differences in students served in higher education, understanding differences of psychological type in students may also enhance student success. The assessment of psychological type is based upon Carl Jung’s theory that human behavior is not random and that patterns of mental functions exist in the population. Following this conceptual foundation, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, MBTI™, has become the most widely used instrument for determining type preferences in business, personal coaching and on college campuses. It was developed by the mother-daughter team of Katherine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers with the foundations of orientation and organization to the outer world as a framework to guide individuals through the constructive use of differences. The MBTI instrument asks a series of self-report forced-choice questions to define individual preference opposites for personal energy, taking in information, making decisions, and organizing one’s world. Based upon responses to these questions, an individual is assigned a type preference for each pair of opposites which when combined; create sixteen individual four-letter type codes.

There are four MBTI type dichotomies or opposite preferences and each has a different influence on learning. The word preference is used to refer to the innate tendency one has in each of the psychological dichotomies. The principle of preference is frequently illustrated in type facilitations by asking participants to write their signature with their non-dominant hand. Generally, participants will describe this exercise as awkward, uncomfortable or not a preferred activity, but one they are able to complete.  Each individual has a preference for daily functions, but is able to operate out of preference, as needed. The preference pairs include where a person gets their energy, categorized as Extraversion and Introversion; how an individual takes in information or Sensing and Intuiting; the decision-making process of Thinking and Feeling; and the orientation to and organization in the outer world of Judging and Perceiving. Individuals use each aspect of the personality pairs daily, but have a preference for one that is more comfortable or useful to the self.

Extraversion and Introversion. Extraversion and Introversion are expressions of where an individual gathers personal energy. Extraversion (E) is the energy that develops from engaging with people, objects and events. Externally expressing interests and interacting with others is invigorating for extraverts.  They learn best in situations that include movement, action and conversation and prefer to connect theories and facts with personal experience. Introversion (I) is a reflective, inward coordination with thoughts and ideas.  Introverts look internally for thoughts and energy. They think best in solitude and prefer advance notice before sharing or acting in a learning situation.

Sensing and Intuition. Sensing and Intuition are the functions for absorbing information. The Sensing (S) perception is the process of awareness and accumulating information through the physical senses. Sensing is a pragmatic function relying on details, sequenced lists, and consistency. Sensors learn best with sequential learning from concrete to abstract and tend to excel at memorization. The Intuitive (N) perception is future oriented and uses hunches and sees possibilities to provide explanations. Intuitive preference persons value patterns and abstract ideas and learn through imaginative tasks and theoretical topics with ease.

Thinking and Feeling. Thinking and Feeling are the decision-making or judgment processes of type. Thinking (T) is the objective decision-making process using standards and criteria to analyze information or situations to improve situations or performance. Thinking preference individuals are motivated in learning by logic and respect for their competence. The Feeling (F) decision-making preference is subjective and based upon personal values for accommodating harmony and the improvement of personal conditions for others. Individuals with Feeling preference are motivated in learning by personal encouragement, values and the human dimension of a topic or lesson.

Judging and Perceiving. Judging (J) is the process of engaging with the outer world preferring organization, structure, and a planned life. Those preferring Judgment tend to experience time in specific segments. They are driven to seek closure or finish tasks in those specific time periods. Judging preference learning thrives on task completion, structured learning and specific goals. The Perceiving (P) preference values autonomy, flexibility and spontaneity. They experience time as an uninterrupted flow and are open to new information as they experience and process. They prefer open learning environments that rely less on deadlines and structure.

Psychological type assessment can been helpful in allowing detection of interpersonal roadblocks and miscommunication related to type preferences, particularly for students in the transition from high school to college. Through intentional examination of type and how it relates to learning preferences, opportunities emerge for enabling students to understand more about themselves in this transition. Although the MBTI is not designed to be a predictor, examining type preference anomalies to enhance student services and resources may lead to increased student success and retention.

What is your type? Do you use the MBTI in your student success initiatives?

Do what you believe is great work

Welcome to the third anniversary of eighteen and life! Over the last three years, the pages of this blog have been filled with ideas and thoughts on my career in student affairs. It is special work that we do in guiding, shaping, and celebrating students. And it is new every day.

Steve Jobs described it best in his 2005 Stanford commencement address.

Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. 

It’s not only a national debt crisis

Helping students understand how to effectively manage student loan debt is a bit of a project for me. I spend much of my professional work counseling first-generation college students, most of whom have high financial need. I have shared my views on the student debt crisis here, here, and here.

Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus present some excellent alternative plans for lowering student costs in higher education by encouraging students to choose community colleges and state institutions.  And although I disagree with their portrayal of unscrupulous financial aid officers when describing the individuals at my own institution, I do not doubt that they are out there.

The next subprime crisis will come from defaults on student debts, starting with for-profit colleges and rising to the Ivy League. The parallels with housing are striking. In both, the written warnings aren’t understood, especially on penalties and interest rates. And in both, it’s assumed that what’s being bought will rise in value, in one case the real estate, in the other the salaries which will accrue with a degree. One bubble has burst; the second is already losing air.

Success tips for First-Year Students

Contributing writer Erin Leitner with the News Record of the University of Cincinnati came up with 7 Tips for First-year Students to Succeed.  She included wisdom on not stressing over choosing a major.

Don’t stress about picking a major your first year or two. Just because some people know exactly what they want to do from the start doesn’t mean you have to narrow your frame of mind, too.

In your first year or so, take your time and search for your niche. My advice is take classes that you think you may like or think you are good at. If you find that you enjoy them and do well in them naturally then you may be on to something.

Also, try to ask people you admire about their careers and emulate their advice into your life. Don’t limit yourself to just local acquaintances or professors, but don’t ignore them either. Try to contact those unreachable-possible-celebrities whose work might inspire you. They may not answer you, but if they do you will have some golden inspiration.

You could also try to reach the people who directly surround your idol. They are likely the backbone of the individual you are seeking advice from and are usually equally talented and knowledgeable about the career path you are exploring.

I recall switching my undergraduate major during the first and second college year, staying within the same academic department, but choosing a different direction. With the exception of pre-professional programs in architecture and perhaps engineering on my campus, students have the flexibility to give courses a test-drive before committing to a program of study. I counsel students and families that not every 18-year old is ready to declare what they will be doing for the next forty years. Being undecided about a major is not a negative, it’s the active process of making a decision.