Personality & learning styles--lessons for Indian corporate trainers.

AuthorRaju, Prageetha G.


Learning involves the integrated functioning of the total organism- thinking, feeling, perceiving, and behaving (Kolb, 1984). While the relation between personality and learning is apparent, corporate trainers have not recognized it as a vital factor in corporate training programs. Dubois & Rothwell (2004) indicated the importance of using personality in developing corporate training modules. There is a need to recognize how personality affects learning, particularly in the corporate training. Dubois & Rothwell (2004) indicated that corporate trainers need to address differences in employee personalities and learning styles in order to conduct training with effective outcomes because the nature of jobs is getting complex with the advent of technology and competition. Also, organizations need new ways to renew and revitalize them to forestall obsolescence for the organization and the people in it. Learning is no longer for kids but a central lifelong task essential for personal development and career success (Kolb, 1984) because to improve the performance of our employees we need to know how they learn. Broadly, learning style refers to the dissimilar approaches to learning. The rationale for identifying and understanding these styles is that each style involves training methods that are presumed to allow each individual to learn best. A study was conducted to determine if MBTI has distinct learning styles associated with them and to recommend the same to corporate trainers.

Problem Background

The current corporate training does not take into account the effect of personality and learning on training effectiveness. Also, trainers seek practical solution to improve the effectiveness of training outcomes. The literature bears evidence to the effect that those with different MBTI scores/results had different learning styles (Myers et al, 1998); however, most of the research solely reported patterns of correlation between a single dichotomy and other variables. In addition, Goley (1982) established learning preferences, which separated individuals into four personality groups, which originated from Keirsey's four temperaments (Keirsey & Bates, 1984). There is no research that focused on sixteen personality combinations of MBTI related to various learning styles. Also, just reporting a learning style for a single dichotomy might not address the individual's learning style (Myers et al, 1998).

Felder and Silverman's ILS (1988) is comprehensive and easy to use by corporate trainers because it takes into account research from experiential learning theories, personality type theories, behaviorist theories and cognitive learning studies (Felder &Spurlin, 2005). Not many studies appeared on MBTI that specifically used Felder & Silverman's ILS (1998) except for a study in a school in Portugal in 2012 by Joao Negreiros, Zelia Baptista & Leanda Lee to evaluate how the choice of teaching method can be assisted by the knowledge of a student's personality type and learning style. A study by Komos & Holgard conducted MBTI and Kolb's Learning Style Inventory (LSI) together with the ILS on engineering students to assess learning style vis-a-vis personality. Another study is a class assignment by J J Cohen in 2008. The present study, adopts the methodology of the above three, but, is conducted on corporate trainees in India. Trainers need to believe that "to improve the performance of our employees we need to know how they learn".

Research Question

Do ILS learning styles correlate with each of the sixteen MBTI personality types and do MBTI dichotomies measure against the ILS? The objective is to establish links between different MBTI scores having learning styles associated with them and suggest corporate trainers the same.


The authors observed: (a) training methods- lectures are predominantly used followed by discussions and debates, and some physical/mental activities; (b) training material- consisted of text with diagrams, tables and questions of descriptive nature at the end of each chapter. The study is conducted in two segments:

Segment 1 is administration of MBTI and ILS instruments on trainees.

Segment 2 is administration of validated and adjusted LP assessment (1982) and Temperament sorter as a follow-up on three respondents who obtained strong scores in each personality type of MBTI and the assessment format is of Likert type.

130 people were chosen but only 104 responses were usable and thus the sample size is 104 participants in training programs from the authors' networks as well as friends of friends. The sampling is purely judgemental and snow-balling, though care has been taken to cover as many industrial sectors.

Information generated by comparing the 16 MBTI personality types with their learning styles vis-a-vis comparing the four temperaments with their learning styles, are analyzed using scatter diagrams to illustrate different coefficient correlation of the 16 personality types and their ILS scores. The scores of Segment 2 are added to Segment 1 results for analysis through a table comparing temperaments with the LP score.

Limitations of the Study

* The number of respondents in this study is not only not large enough to draw convincing results but also limited to the authors' network thus does not satisfactorily represent all 16 personality types. Also follow-up LP assessment is limited to three from each of the MBTI categories which may not be reliable.

* Some trainers who give technical training in the area of Engineering, Accounting, Finance, etc felt that this type of questionnaires are not required for them as it is their knowledge that matters and thus the authors failed to get the instrument completed.

* This study only wants to establish correlation between MBTI and ILS assessments so that it can suggest trainers to utilize these findings but it does not assert that using ILS based on MBTI would increase training effectiveness.

* Since the study adopted methodological aspects from three different studies, there may be similarities in some calculations; demographic information has not been provided to validate it.


Myers Briggs Type Indicator is a validated assessment tool used at workplace, developed to place individuals in the best jobs for their personality temperament (Myers & Myers, 1995). It has four dichotomies that indicate an individual's personality preference. These four dichotomies demonstrate how individuals acquire energy, gather information, make decisions, and time their decisions. Each area has two opposite poles and each individual has a personality preference towards one of these extremes (Myers, et al 1998). Myers and Briggs adapted Jung's theory (1990) for workplace setting based on his book, "Psychological Types" which describes consistent differences between psychological function and the affect of introvert/extravert attitude on those functions. He explained individual personality is different based on opposing dichotomies in function and attitude.

In MBTI, the first focus is function, i.e., how an individual perceives the world and how he gathers information. An individual with a sensing personality (S) prefers to have information presented in a literal and chronological manner. A person with an intuitive (N) personality prefers to translate literal information into possibilities, implications, and associations. Individuals with intuitive personalities look at the big picture and often ignore specific details (Kroeger &Thuesen, 1988) and they can easily progress to what is implied, and to that which may have potential implications (Quenk, 2000). Another function, thinking (T) tends to use analytical logic to come to a decision (Kroeger &Thuesen, 1988) and likes to keep emotions from clouding the judgement until the decision is made. The next function is feeling (F), which involves making subjective decisions based on personally held values and are concerned about the personal impact of the decision on the people around (Keirsey & Bates, 1984). These two dichotomies are based on functions of information gathering and decision making and each play a role in an individual's preferred teaching/learning style.

The next dichotomy is focused on preferred attitude i.e., how an individual obtains energy and what attitude he shows towards functions. Individuals with an extravert personality (E) preference would receive energy from the outside world of people, things, and actions while individuals with an introvert personality (I) would receive energy from reflection, introspection and solitude (Quenk, 2000). But, long...

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