Academic journal article Business Communication Quarterly

Using Experiential Learning Theory and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator in Teaching Business Communication

Academic journal article Business Communication Quarterly

Using Experiential Learning Theory and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator in Teaching Business Communication

Article excerpt

As more emphasis is placed on groupwork in business environments, management students need to be aware of the psychological underpinnings of communication. They also benefit from understanding how people learn because they are likely to have to incorporate such understanding when, as managers, they implement organizational change. Moreover, they have to become life-long learners themselves as they adapt to new business environments. Business communication classes can perform an important role in preparing students to meet these challenges by introducing them to the Myers-Briggs Type indicator and Kolb's experiential learning cycle.

Keywords: Experiential learning, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, teamwork

EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING (Kolb, 1984) has seen an of interest in recent years as a theoretical grounding for learning in several domains, including business communication. Saunders (1997) discusses how experiential learning theory can provide a new dimension for understanding the pedagogy of using games, simulations and case studies. Arising out of, and coincident with this, has been a concern with students' learning styles and more recently personality indicators such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Sharp (1997) shows how students' awareness of their own and others' learning styles can help them to develop their communication and interpersonal skills by giving them a better sense of audience so that they can present information that appeals to all four learning styles. The MBTI has become a popular tool in education (DiTiberio, 1998). In a recent study, McPherson (1999) concludes that knowing students' personality types helps teachers develop more meaningful class activities. Hutchinson (1997) shows how personality indicators such as the MBTI can be used in a practical way to understand differences in how people behave and to assist in team building and communication in a business environment.

Experiential learning focuses on learning through reflection on one's personal experience. Through the experiential cycle "what happens in the street" becomes linked with "what happens in school" (McCarthy, 1987). Through reflection, students link concrete experience to theoretical understanding. The process serves as a framework to guide future action and helps students advance from passive learners to active doers (Goby, 1997).

This article demonstrates how an understanding of Kolb's learning cycle in conjunction with knowledge of their own personality type using the MBTI can help students prepare for teamwork in their working lives.

From Transmission to Construction

The use of various instruments and models to understand behavior and promote more effective communication is in line with the move away from what has been called the "transmission" model of learning, the view that learning is primarily the assimilation of information. More recent perspectives adopt a "constructivist" approach (Rodenburg, 1998) based on the findings of cognitive science research and social educational theory. This perspective emphasizes that knowledge is constructed by the learner and that, consequently, as part of the learning process, learners should be encouraged to reflect on their own experience and their process of responding to it. To do this effectively requires techniques or tools: the experiential learning cycle and personality type theory are two compelling ones in understanding how worldviews differ. Understanding those differences is essential in teamwork, which demands that participants be aware of why other people may have different needs and behave very differently from themsel ves.

Benefits of the Approach

Incorporating these tools helps students understand themselves better as they also understand better why others may behave differently. A further benefit is that individual strengths can be acknowledged and honored. In addition, by learning to adapt their style of communication to match the varying styles of others, students become more proficient communicators. …

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