People and Initiatives:
Studying States of Growth
We teach not only what we know but who we are. And who we are also affects what we learn and how we handle information.
For many years we have known that personality—the structure of our minds—affects our teaching style and how we understand and interact with our students (see Joyce, Peck, & Brown, 1981).
We have also known that we have individual differences in how we react to learning experiences that are designed for us. We know that what appeals to one person may not appeal to another. Although frequently the match of experience to our preferences is attributed to substantive matches and mismatches (some of us like the content better; some of us like the process better), the other side of the coin is that our personalities react to other people and the nature of the environment differently. We can find ourselves comfortable with people who disagree with us in particular issues but who process information similarly, and yet we can be uncomfortable with people we agree with on these issues but who process information differently from us.
In this chapter we talk about personality. The purpose is to help us gain conceptual understanding of why we behave as we do and why people react differently to many well-intentioned efforts to improve schooling and teaching.
We draw on a line of research that we have conducted with our colleagues for forty years. That line of work has taken us from studying personalities interacting in groups to studying individual personality as an influence on teaching. In the case of the work at hand, we try to understand why teachers and administrators respond as they do to their jobs and to each other.
This chapter celebrates individual differences. We expect individual differences and rejoice in the mix of personalities that people our