Temperament-Based Learning Styles as Moderators of Academic Achievement

By Horton, Connie Burrows; Oakland, Thomas | Adolescence, Spring 1997 | Go to article overview

Temperament-Based Learning Styles as Moderators of Academic Achievement


Horton, Connie Burrows, Oakland, Thomas, Adolescence


Considerable research in education and psychology has been directed toward identifying the effects of individual differences in learning styles. Learning theorists generally agree that curriculum and instructional strategies should be adapted to these aptitudes.

Learning styles have been defined as physiological, cognitive, and affective behaviors that serve as relatively stable indicators of how learners perceive, interact with, and respond to learning environments (Keefe, 1987). Thus, learning styles are thought to be stable and enduring personal qualities and not easily acquired (Derry & Murphy, 1986). As noted in Keefe's definition, literature of learning styles has centered on three main qualities thought to be critical: physiology (e.g., Das & Malloy, 1984; Eppele, 1989; Kane, 1984; Keefe, 1987; Levy, 1984; Millard & Nagle, 1986; Polce, 1987; Shannon & Rice, 1983; Sinatra, 1982; Webb, 1983), cognition (e.g., Bertini, 1986; Brennan, 1982; Das & Malloy, 1981; Goodenough, 1986; Kane, 1984; Keefe, 1987; Korchin, 1986; Messick, 1976; Polce, 1987; Witkin, Moore, Goodenough, & Cox, 1977), and affect (e.g., Carrol, 1963; Haring, 1985; Keefe, 1987).

Several ways have been proposed that examine learning styles in terms of their conceptualized physiological, cognitive, and affective components. Research designed to study the efficacy of learning style applications generally consider relatively narrow components (e.g., field dependence) within the context of aptitude-treatment interactions (ATI). General support for ATI is lacking (Cronbach & Snow, 1977; Reynolds, 1981; Snider, 1990), and there are few empirically supported guidelines to assist in grouping students for instructional purposes. Moreover, a meta-analysis of studies on learning style applications reports little or no achievement gains when instruction methods match learning modalities (Kavale & Forness, 1987).

Despite this somewhat pessimistic view, considerable interest remains in uncovering possible applications of learning styles defined in broader ways. Previous research can be criticized for conceptualizing these styles too narrowly, thus minimizing opportunities to test fully the effects of broader and more encompassing learning styles. Some believe temperament provides this broader perspective. Although the early contributions of Hippocrates and Galen often are cited, modern interest dates to Jung's writings (e.g., Psychological Types (1923). The popularization of temperament type by Myers and Briggs (Myers & McCaulley, 1985) has generated considerable interest among educators and psychologists. Myers and Briggs operationally define temperament through four dichotomous traits: extraversion (E) and introversion (I), sensing (S) and intuition (N), thinking (T) and feeling (F), and judging (J) and perceiving (P).

Keirsey and Bates (1984) describe four basic temperaments that can be derived from the interaction of these types of traits, each temperament having its own primary or core value. SJ students primarily value belonging through providing service to others (e.g., they value following traditions and acting responsibly and conservatively). SPs primarily value personal freedom and spontaneity (e.g., to act on their impulses, to play, and to be free of constraints). NTs primarily value competence (e.g., a desire to learn, to know, to predict, and to control). NFs primarily value personal growth (e.g., to develop fully as individuals, to display authentic integrity, and to promote harmony).

Golay (1982) and others (e.g., Lawrence, 1982) extended type and Keirseian temperament theory by describing prominent learning styles exhibited by students displaying these four temperament types. SJs were described as learning best when curricular materials were concrete and instruction well planned and routine (e.g., using repetition and drill through step-by-step instructions). SPs were thought to learn best through strategies that highlight variety, action, and entertainment. …

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