Cognitive Interventions, Enrichment Strategies, and Temperament-based Learning Styles

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Cognitive Interventions, Enrichment Strategies, and Temperament-based Learning Styles

Diana Joyce

Temperament theory has evolved over the centuries to provide a basis for better understanding individual learning styles. Qualities of temperament are thought to be biologically based and are relatively stable over the lifespan. The support for a biological basis for temperament includes differences in cortical arousal, limbic site activity, hypertension rates, and heart disease studies. One of the most internationally recognized temperament measures, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, offers a four dimension conceptual framework. This scale has been adapted for school-age children in the Student Styles Questionnaire (SSQ). In educational research, some temperament qualities are associated with higher academic achievement and graduation rates. This chapter will review temperament-based learning styles as measured by the SSQ and the implications for enhancing classroom teaching.

Temperament refers to traits that are generally considered to be intrinsic with a biological basis (Teglasi, 1998a; 1998b). Learning styles refer to the strategies these traits promote in students' preferred ways of acquiring, analyzing, studying, and using information learned. Historical interest in the nature of individual temperament characteristics is long-standing with both ancient and modern theorists contributing to our present understanding of the subject.


Early philosophers such as Aristotle, Praxagoras, Philotimus, and Hippocrates described behavior clusters they called humors (Galen, trans. 1916; trans. 1992) to explain temperament. Hippocrates provided one of the earliest written theories of temperament (Hippocrates, trans. 1939; trans; 1988, trans. 1994) that he called four humors. He conceived of these four components as having both positive and negative effects, determined by their appropriate balance in the body. An excess or shortage of one of the four was thought to create an imbalance that, in turn, would create illness. Approximately 500 years later, Galen elaborated on Hippocrates' four humors and depicted physical and emotional characteristics of these four temperaments (Galen, trans. 1992; Hergenhahn, 1997; Hippocrates, trans. 1939): choleric, phlegmatic, melancholic, and sanguine.

The choleric temperament was described as someone who was easily angered and easily calmed, quickly changing moods and likes. The phlegmatic temperament was described as pale, slow, drowsy, apathetic, weak, often engaging in fantasy, and prone to somatic complaints. The melancholic temperament included extremes of happiness, sadness, and depression. The fourth temperament, sanguine, was described as loving, affectionate, optimistic, and hopeful (Galen, trans. 1992; Hergenhahn, 1997).

Modern temperament and learning-style theory has evolved considerably and is a complex field crossing several branches of psychology including cognitive learning processes and educational measurement. In addition, other disciplines including business management and career counseling have focused on adults and proposed correlations between temperament and successful professional achievement (Myers, McCaulley, Quenk, & Hammer, 1998). For example, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) has been reported as the most widely used instrument in business consulting and personnel training (Furnham, 1996), with over two million copies sold per year (Pittenger, 1993).

The research of Coffield, Moseley, Hall, and Ecclestone (2004b) identifies seventy-one learning-style models since the early 1900s with a wide range of theoretical constructs. Some test instruments include abilities also thought to be measured by intelligence and processing tests (e.g., abstract reasoning, memory, sensory perception, information processing, and verbal/visual learning). Other definitions of temperament have included physiological perspectives such as measures of activity level, distractibility, and reaction intensity for younger children (Thomas & Chess, 1989). In addition, some instruments include measurement of traits such as imagery and even affective or behavioral domains.

Several efforts have been made to organize these diverse theories (Coffield et al., 2004b; Curry, 1987; Vermunt, 1998) (see Table 3.1). Curry proposes an “onion” model depicted by three layers represented in concentric circles. The center or core layer is Cognitive Personality Style which includes those learning-style theories that define complex learning attributes that are stable over time and thus also less likely to be remediated. Distinguishing stable and genetic-based theories is important because it implies the child's attributes have a genetic basis and may be less subject to change. The middle layer includes Information Processing Style theories, which are considered to be only moderately stable or responsive to intervention. The outer layer includes Instructional Preference theories that are easy to change; however, they are also considered less important to complex learning. Vermunt's model

TABLE 3.1 Three category systems for learning-style theories.
Curry (1987)Vermunt (1998)Coffield et al. (2004)
Cognitive Processing Style: complex learning, stable over time, MBTIStable: mental learning, learning orientationsConstitutionally Based: four modalities (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, tactic), genetic
Information Processing Style: moderately stable over time, some changeContext Dependent: regulatory strategies, processing strategiesCognitive Structure: inherent qualities and patterns of ability
Instructional Preferences: less crucial to learning, easy to modifyStable Personality Type: one portion of the individual's personality, moderately stable (e.g., MBTI)
Learning Preferences: learning-style preferences, flexibly stable over time
Learning Approaches: strategies, orientations, concepts of learning, motivation, environment

(1998) differentiated moderately-stable learning styles (i.e., Mental Learning, Learning Orientations) and context dependent styles (i.e., Regulatory Strategies, Processing Strategies) in the categorization of various theories.

A third classification system, Family of Learning Styles, divides the seventy-one theories into five groups: Constitutionally Based, Cognitive Structured (patterns of ability), Stable Personality Types (e.g., MBTI), Learning Preferences, and Learning Approaches (Coffield et al., 2004b). These five categories are considered to be a continuum with Constitutionally Based including theorists who view learning styles as fixed, intrinsic qualities with a genetic basis that is resistant to change. Thus their recommendations are primarily to work with existing preferences rather than try to modify them. The fifth and opposite end of the classification system, Learning Approaches, has more emphasis on individual factors such as motivation and personal choice of strategies as students interact with the curriculum design and teaching techniques.

With the emphasis on this interaction between the classroom culture and the students' preferences, these theories are more likely to recommend student and curriculum modifications based on a child's learning-style preferences. With such a diverse group of differing dimensions, this chapter does not endeavor to provide a review of all learning-style measures or theory. The temperament-based learning styles reviewed in this chapter are based on the Student Styles Questionnaire (SSQ), which is an instrument specifically designed to assess children. The instrument measures the same four temperament domains found in the internationally recognized MBTI with its theoretical foundation from Carl Jung's temperament theory. In the Family of Learning Styles classification system, this theory is on the middle of the continuum and is characterized as a Stable Personality Type theory. Traits are considered relatively stable with some change documented with age and traits are thought to be subject to remediation or strengthening. The most widely known components of this theory are the concepts of Extroversion and Introversion.

Carl Jung's theory was developed from his clinical observations of patients' behaviors. He defined two attitudes of temperament: Extroversion and Introversion (Jung, 1921/1971). Extroverted and Introverted qualities were conceptualized as opposite ends of a continuum, with each person possessing both; however, one was considered preferred and often better developed. Jung observed that his patients with extreme Extroversion or Introversion were most likely to display pathology in a manner consistent with their temperament qualities. For example, his Extroverted patients more frequently exhibited hysteria or aggression and Introverted patients more frequently exhibited internalizing disorders such as depression or anxiety. Therefore, he proposed maintaining a balance of temperament qualities with the ability to use either set when appropriate, which resulted in better adjustment, while having extreme preferences resulted in severe deficits in the opposing qualities. His theory also delineates four other basic psychological functions: Sensation/Intuition and Thinking/Feeling. This theory was later modified by Myers adding a fourth dimension, Judging/Perceiving.

Although most theory and research related to temperament has focused on adult behavior patterns, temperament differences can be distinguished in children, even as early as infancy. Jung (1928/1945) characterized an infant's adaptation to the environment, especially his or her quick interaction with objects, as one of the earliest indicators of extroversion. He described introverted children as shy, reflective, thoughtful, and fearful of unknown objects, even as infants (Jung, 1928/1945). There also are documented differences in infants' activity levels, sociability, and emotionality (Buss, 1989). The Student Styles Questionnaire (SSQ) provides a framework for understanding children's temperament-based learning-style qualities that recognizes strengths and may provide insights leading to more effective interventions.

In general, learning-style research for academic gains when matching teacher-student learning styles is mixed with nearly equal studies indicating positive results and others not substantiating this (Coffield et al., 2004b). Therefore, this chapter does not recommend the daunting task of matching the teacher's style or curriculum to that of each individual child. However, there is support for other learning-style factors that affect learning behavior and thus have intervention implications. Cornett (1983) found significant positive affective regard when teachers attempted use of learning styles, which can be important to behavioral dynamics of a classroom. Temperament learning styles have been identified as indicators of both academic persistence and graduation rates for at-risk students (Schurr, Ruble, Palomba, Pickerill, & Moore, 1997). Therefore, these qualities are important as long-term productivity, quality of life, and income advantages for students who graduate rather than drop out of school are well-documented. In addition, research on counselors' incorporation of components of a patient's style, in therapy, indicate lower therapy dropout rates and voluntary extension of number of treatment sessions attended (Newman, 1979).


There are four temperament-based learning-style qualities measured by Myers-Briggs and SSQ theory: Extroversion/Introversion, Imaginative/Practical, Thinking/Feeling, and Organized/Flexible (see Table 3.2). These traits are thought to be relatively stable with some change possible with age and personal choice.

Consistent with early Jungian theory, these four temperament-based learning styles are considered dichotomous with two opposing sets of qualities for each dimension. Students may possess qualities of both styles on each dimension but may indicate a propensity or preference for one over the other. Each dimension is denoted in positive terms and includes strengths (Coffield et al., 2004a; Myers et al., 1998). If a dimension is highly developed, the opposing qualities may be underdeveloped resulting in weaknesses.


The qualities of Extroversion and Introversion refer to one's orientation towards external versus internal stimuli. Extroverts find their energy renewed from the environment (e.g., outside stimuli and interacting with others). They are more socially outgoing and share opinions freely. They have many friends and are often concerned with others' expectations (Jung, 1921/1971). When learning, they prefer developing ideas

TABLE 3.2 Qualities associated with four temperament dimensions.
Source: “Temperament-based Learning Styles and School-based Applications” by T. Oakland & D. Joyce, 2004. Adapted with permission of the authors.
Sources From Which One Draws EnergyExtroversionenergy from environmental stimuli/people, many friends, many interests, prefer talking, respond quickly, enjoy interruptions
Introversionenergy from within/own ideas, select deep friendships/interests, prefer writing, need own space/privacy, reserved
How One Prefers to Acquire New InformationPracticalenjoy facts, prefer applications first, learn by direct experience, prefer simplicity, realistic, pragmatic
Imaginativeenjoy ideas, prefer theory first, learn by intuitive hunches, prefer global concepts, enjoy possibilities
How One Makes DecisionsThinkingvalue honesty and justice, competitive, enjoy debate, quizzical, decisions based on logic
Feelingvalue harmony, sympathetic, cooperative, diplomatic, charming, decisions based on personal values
When One Makes DecisionsOrganizedprefer planning, like order and systems, enjoy routine, need closure, impose standards
Flexibleprefer spontaneity, like change and variety, enjoy surprises, like to keep options open, tolerant and adaptive

by talking about them, working in groups (e.g., cooperative learning groups), and prefer talking assignments over writing assignments. Their weaknesses can include inability to listen well to others, resisting independent work (e.g., research), and speaking before ideas are well thought out. Teaching methods that include cooperative group work, oral presentations, class discussions, active classrooms, and curriculum variety are consistent with extroverted strengths. Approximately 65 percent of children indicate they prefer Extroverted qualities (Oakland, Glutting, & Horton, 1996).

Introverted students are more likely to draw energy from within themselves, value their privacy, and need some time alone to renew. They often have fewer but close friends, and are hesitant and cautious before sharing opinions in public. When learning they indicate a preference to work alone or in small groups, and can concentrate for long periods of time. They need quiet work areas, think silently, and prefer independent tasks such as reading or writing. Possible weaknesses for Introverted students include seeming to be distant from others, missing opportunities to glean insights from others, and avoiding participation in activities they might enjoy. Teaching methods that include research, reading, writing, independent work, and in-depth study are consistent with Introverted strengths. About 35 percent of students indicate they prefer an Introverted style (Oakland & Joyce, 2004; Oakland et al., 1996).

Evidence for a biological basis for differences between Extroverts and Introverts has been found in several areas of brain research. Lower cortical arousal (Sternberg, 1990; Wilson & Languis, 1990), lower limbic site activity (Kagan & Snidman, 1991), and lower reported rates of hypertension and heart disease (Shelton, 1996) have been found among Extroverts compared to Introverts. The lower cortical arousal level among Extroverts may account for their desire to seek out stimulation from the environment and others. The higher cortical arousal level found among Introverts may be related to their inclination to withdraw in order to rejuvenate their energy.

Practical—Imaginative Styles

The qualities of Practical and Imaginative styles refer to how one prefers to learn information. The term Practical is used in ways consistent with Jung's definition of Sensing. The term Imaginative is used in ways consistent with Jung's definition of Intuitive. Students with a Practical style approach new information in a pragmatic manner by gathering input from their five senses, preferring facts, and valuing practical applications. They are more inclined to be precise in their work, carefully observing details. When learning new information, they express a preference for simplicity, step-by-step sequences, and literal meaning. Their weaknesses can include rejecting abstract thinking (e.g., theory), not recognizing broad relationships or themes in information, and rigid attitudes. Teaching methods that include hands-on work and manipulatives (e.g., lab experiments), sequential presentation from simple components to complex themes, and real-life applications are consistent with Practical strengths. About 65 percent of students prefer a Practical style (Oakland et al., 1996).

Students who indicate a strong preference for Imaginative styles can be creative and have many original ideas. When learning they often prefer holistic insight orientations and they value intuition and original ideas. They are more inclined to enjoy words, metaphors, symbols, and theories first, followed by applications. Possible weaknesses for Imaginative students include neglecting details, factual inaccuracies, and drawing conclusions too quickly. With their global view of concepts they can underestimate the time and effort needed to complete projects as well as lack the motivation to meticulously inspect details. Teaching methods that include creative thinking, global concepts, novelty, science fiction, and exploration of ideas are consistent with their strengths. About 35 percent of students report a preference for Imaginative styles (Oakland et al., 1996).

Academic research has indicated Intuitive students may be particularly well suited to typical school learning. Studies have found a preference for Intuitive styles among gifted students, especially girls (Oakland, Joyce, Glutting, & Horton, 2000) and students who are the highest achievers, especially in college (Myers & McCaulley, 1985). In comparisons of intelligence, SAT, and GRE scores, Imaginative children held consistently higher results (Myers, 1962; Myers & McCaulley, 1985). Students with the combined qualities of Introversion, Imaginative, and Organized have among the highest GPA and graduation rates (Myers & Myers, 1980).

Evidence for a biological basis for differences between Practical and Imaginative styles includes research indicating greater activity in the left hemisphere for those preferring Practical styles and greater activity in the right hemisphere for those preferring Imaginative styles (Hartman, Hylton, & Sanders, 1997; Newman, 1985). Persons with a Practical style are also overrepresented in self-reported stress and coronary heart disease (Shelton, 1996).

Thinking—Feeling Styles

The qualities of Thinking and Feeling styles refer to how one makes decisions. Students with a preference for the Thinking style often are more inclined to be candid and analytical. They value logic, fairness, and truth over sentiment. When learning, they report a preference for critical review of ideas and facts that permits debate or rebuttal of ideas, competition, and direct feedback. Their weaknesses can include avoiding expressing emotions or feelings, and offending others with their blunt critiques and arguing of issues. About 65 percent of male students and 35 percent of female students prefer a Thinking style (Oakland et al., 1996).

Students with a preference for the Feeling style are more inclined to be sympathetic, diplomatic, charming, and tactful in their interactions with others. They value group harmony, are often complimentary, trust easily, and understand people. When learning they express a preference for understanding issues in a social context of how the issue affects the well being of others, personal beliefs, and value systems. Their weaknesses can include being overly-sensitive and easily hurt, indecisiveness to avoid conflict, dependence on others, and becoming enmeshed in others' needs. Teaching methods that include cooperative, non-competitive activities that benefit a greater cause (e.g., team win) are consistent with their strengths. About 65 percent of female students and 35 percent of male students prefer a Feeling style (Oakland et al., 1996).

Organized—Flexible Styles

The qualities of Organized and Flexible Styles refer to when one makes decisions and how individuals live their daily lives. Students with a preference for an Organized style generally prefer well-defined goals, advance notice of change, and schedules. When learning, they report working steadily toward goals, a need for orderly supplies and desk space, and a desire for closure on projects. Their weaknesses can include excessive preoccupation with order, premature conclusions, working much too hard, and imposing these expectations on others. Teaching methods that include efficient schedules with structured plans, explicit grading guidelines, and orderly environments are consistent with their strengths. About 50 percent of students indicate an Organized style with higher percentages of females (59 percent) than males (42 percent) expressing this preference (Oakland et al., 1996).

Flexible students prefer to make decisions spontaneously, are adaptive, and relaxed about life. When learning, they report preferring to make work into play, unstructured settings, being involved in several projects at once, and change with a quick pace. Their weaknesses can include procrastinating, failing to keep commitments, and a nonchalant attitude toward work. Teaching methods that are quick-paced, offer a variety of tasks and formats, and provide flexible deadlines are consistent with their strengths. Overall about 50 percent of students prefer a Flexible style. A somewhat higher percentage of males (58 percent) than females (41 percent) prefer the Flexible style (Oakland et al., 1996). The terms Organized and Flexible are used in ways consistent with Myers's functions of Judging and Perceiving, respectively.

Evidence suggesting a biological basis for differences in preference for Organized rather than Flexible styles includes the work of Hartman, Hylton, and Sanders (1997). In a study of 232 students they found those with an Organized preference exhibited some increased activity in right-brained structures as opposed to those preferring Flexible who exhibited increased activity in left-brain structures.


Research shows the majority of teachers and school administrators indicate preferences for the Extroverted, Practical, Feeling, and Organized styles (Myers & McCaulley, 1985; Sears, Kennedy, & Kaye, 1997). Therefore, it is reasonable to expect these qualities are reflected in the structure of schools and curriculum. In many ways these qualities may even be required to be successful within a school system. For example, grade-school teachers are required to verbally interact nearly six hours per day. This is an activity more suited to Extroverts and may explain why school-age teachers are more likely to be Extroverted. In contrast, university-level instructors are more likely to be Introverted (Myers et al., 1998) as those at the university level may lecture a few hours per week and retreat to an office for individual or small group research and instructional preparation work. The predominant temperament for university professors is Introverted, Imaginative, Thinking, and Organized. Teachers, especially those in younger grades, often present hierarchical curriculum materials that provide sequential, step-by-step approaches consistent with their preference for Practical styles. Classrooms are typically highly structured as often recommended for behavioral management and record keeping reasons, characteristics consistent with Organized style preferences. In addition, most teachers are female and learning-style research has indicated the majority of females, regardless of age, prefer a Feeling style when making decisions (Myers et al., 1998).

For children who share the preferences for Practical, Feeling, and Organized styles with teachers, traditional classroom settings may be a good match for their strengths. Although most teachers prefer Extroversion and their teaching demands provide ample opportunities for verbal expression, the typical student has a more sedentary, listening role in traditional lecture or direct instruction models. With the majority of students preferring Extroversion (65 percent) traditional classroom teaching may provide less stimulation than desired for these students. In addition, research indicates students with preference for Imaginative style are among top-performing students. Therefore, although Imaginative is not the preference of most teachers, it may be important to teach Imaginative approaches to children so they can better generalize information.

Research and Learning-style Applications

Matching hypothesis. Some learning-style theorists have advocated a “matching hypothesis” that endeavors to link curriculum, teaching styles, and the learning style of each student. Ten years of research with the MBTI has not indicated strong effects for this form of detailed style matching effort (DiTiberio, 1996). In addition, a metaanalysis of a larger body of learning-style models has also failed, at this time, to indicate success with explicit teacher to student style matching (Coffield et al., 2004b) with effect sizes of only approximately 0.42 (Hattie, 1999; Hattie, Biggs, & Purdie, 1996). Some large reviews have indicated split results with nearly half the studies indicating positive effects for matching and half indicating no effects (Coffield et al., 2004a; Reynolds, 1997). Therefore, there does not appear to be enough evidence, at this time, to warrant implementing the laborious task of matching curriculum and teacher methods to each student. In addition, it may not be practical to expect teachers to accommodate up to thirty different children's styles in a classroom (Reynolds, 1997).

However, there is support for other learning-style factors applied in a broader sense that effect learning behavior and thus have intervention implications. For example, research with students with Oppositional Defiant Disorder indicated a strong preference for Practical styles that may have implications for developing opposing Imaginative qualities to remediate behavior (Joyce & Oakland, 2005). Cornett (1983) found significant positive affective regard for teachers by students when they attempted using a variety of learning styles, which can be important to the general climate dynamics of a classroom. Temperament learning styles have been identified as indicators of both academic persistence and graduation rates (Schurr et al., 1997).

Repertoire enhancement. “Repertoire enhancement” is based on the premise that including a broader range of learning styles rather than just the teacher's preferences may improve student performance. Cognitive interventions and academic enrichment strategies that include a wider variety of temperament-based learning styles can permit more students the opportunity to work within their own strengths as well as the opportunity to learn methods that may need development (see Table 3.3). In addition, there appears to be some consensus that not all children learn the same and a variety of methods may be most productive (Coffield et al., 2004b). Some theorists have argued that the use of more styles also provides a “mismatch” of styles that may actually be most helpful because

TABLE 3.3 Classroom applications and teaching methods consistent with learning-style preferences.
group projects, oral presentations, brainstorming, oral reading, class discussions, public recognition
independent study, pursuit of in-depth study, written papers, posters, allow time for introspection, privacy, quiet, silent reading, lectures, private recognition
present real-world applications, handson activities, sequential presentations, concrete examples, include facts/names/dates
present theory first, discuss relationships between ideas, present global concepts, discuss patterns and predictions, cause and effect
competitive games, debate, contrast/comparisons, direct feedback, critical analysis
cooperative projects, link to humanitarian issues, story problems, team orientations
explicit grading policy, planned activities, long-term projects, structured settings
flexible deadlines, choice in activities, short-term projects, opportunity for movement

it requires students to try other strategies (Coffield et al., 2004b). Additional research to establish what specific academic gains may exist based on including a wider range of teaching methods is needed.

Self-awareness and metacognition. In a large meta-analysis of instruction studies, Marzano (1998) found that teaching students to obtain goals by awareness of the strategies they are presently using and the ability to use other strategies as needed was more important than the actual teachers' presentation styles. The interventions targeted at teaching students on this metacognition level had an average gain of 26 percent.

Common non-pathological language. An advantage of learning styles noted by some authors is that it provides descriptive terms to define learning strategies that have often been observed (e.g., Organized, Imaginative, Introversion) among children. This language provides positive qualities for all children and discussion in a non-pathological language whereas learning difficulties are often denoted in negative stigmatizing terms. The use of this non-pathological language is considered to have the potential to promote a better understanding of children's learning. Leat and Lin (2003) found that having a common language to describe learning terms and specific teacher/student roles were important to successful training in instruction methods. In addition, the discussion of learning styles requires educators to consider factors such as curriculum design, teaching methods, and study skills in a more inclusive manner that recognizes the variation in strategies children use to foster their own learning (Entwistle & Walker, 2000; McCarthy, 1990).


Learning-style theory encompasses a wide range of traits. One of the more widely used measures, the MBTI offers a four dimension conceptual framework for discussing differences in children's approaches to learning. There are versions of the instrument adapted even for young children (SSQ) and the theory includes the widely accepted concepts of Extroversion and Introversion. In addition, there are some cortical studies supporting differences in brain activity on some dimensions. These studies suggest biological components that may further support the contention that temperament-based learning styles are relatively stable and not easily changed. Although support for extensive efforts to match each student's style with curriculum and teaching style is mixed at this time, other beneficial factors are indicated. They include an increase in positive regard for the teacher, higher academic persistence, higher graduation rates, and correlations between Imaginative style and high achievement, as well as longer voluntary therapy sessions when used in counseling interventions. In addition, some theorists support consideration of learning styles as the basis for a common language defining student approaches to learning. From a metacognition perspective, there is support for teaching students to identify their own learning strategies and adapt those to include other approaches. Learning styles may also provide school teachers and administrators a neutral to positive and non-pathological language for defining students' learning approaches. Incorporating a broader range of learning-style approaches in addition to the teacher's personal preferences is an easy, cost-effective method to enhance learning opportunities.


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Cognitive Interventions, Enrichment Strategies, and Temperament-based Learning Styles

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