Developing Understanding with the Leaders of Tomorrow

posted: Friday, February 3, 2017 

At St. John’s-Ravenscourt, we believe that a well-rounded education goes beyond the purely academic. We believe in the importance of character education, and encourage our students to broaden their perspectives and pursue their passions by participating in our co-curricular activities. With opportunities for truly every type of interest, from robotics to a major rock show production and everything in between, our co-curricular program strengthens and enriches students’ SJR experience!

As part of Leadership, Grade 11 students recently completed the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator instrument; an introspective self-report questionnaire designed to indicate psychological preferences in how people perceive the world, communicate, and make decisions. The purpose of the instrument is to make the theory of psychological types described by Carl Jung understandable and useful in people’s lives. The essence of the theory is that much seemingly random variation in behaviour is actually quite orderly and consistent, being due to basic differences in the ways individuals prefer to use their perception and judgment, and that we all have specific preferences in the way we construe our experiences, and that these preferences underlie our interests, values, needs, and motivation.

After taking the MBTI, people’s results firstly fall into one of the 16 distinctive personality types that result from the interactions among the preferences, and secondly, by degree of strength in each of the dichotomies:

  • Focusing on the outer or one’s own inner world: Extraversion (E)/Introversion (I);
  • Focusing on the basic information you take in or interpreting and adding meaning: Sensing (S)/Intuition (N);
  • When making decisions, first looking at logic and consistency or at the people and circumstances: Thinking (T)/Feeling (F); and
  • In dealing with the outside world, deciding, organizing and planning details or staying open to new information and options: Judging (J)/Perceiving (P)

Yesterday, Grade 11 Leadership students (who’ve opted in; the course is not for credit) followed up on their MBTI results with a variety of activities designed to illustrate the differences between types and build an understanding of the four dichotomies. Before taking the assessment, students picked what they thought they were, then received the booklet giving them their results. Some were as predicted; some had discrepancies – students were encouraged to analyse what differed from their expectations. The group’s type table was posted and will be referred to over the next two years.

Students were reminded that the goal of the MBTI is not to label each other: those scoring the same type as someone else can vary in degrees (slight or strong preference in each of the dichotomies), and that their booklets would differ. This illustrated the intricacies of personality. Last week, the students had been split into those scoring Extraversion and those preferring Introversion. They recapped their activity: “I found that the Es were loud, and Is more separated and attentive,” said one student. Another: “I noticed that the Es hands shot up immediately and that they always had something to say, whereas the Is just had a few big ideas and talked about them one at a time after processing them first.” “Is just wanted to be heard,” said another student, “Es realized that even if they come across as not wanting to hear, doesn’t mean that they don’t, and just because Is may appear disinterested, they actually really are.” This illustrated the concept of external or internal expression, and encouraged learning different perspectives.

Students then moved on to a Sensory (S)/Intuition (N) activity. The group was split into those who scored S and those who scored N, shown the same picture, and instructed not to let the other group hear or see what they were interpreting. They recorded what they saw as a group and then presented to each other. The results were clear: Ss used their senses and recorded exactly what they saw (trees, branches, brown, green, umbrella); Ns created a story (Alice in Wonderland, isolation, garden party). Students also came to the realization that if they scored only a “slight” preference for S or N, they may be on the cusp, and some felt they should have been in the other group. The activity showed that there are many ways of seeing the same situation, and that just because someone else’s ideas may be very different, doesn’t mean that they are wrong.

The group was then split into Feeling (F) and Thinking (T), and this time, were sent into different rooms. They were given the same scenario (being part of a sports team asked to compete in an international tournament in Europe; 12 spots being available and 14 players being currently on the team). They were asked firstly how they would deal with it, and then how they would inform those affected by their decision. The T group completed the activity quickly: their decision was based purely on testing sporting ability, ranking the players and splitting them into sections and positions. They decided that they would tell the team by means of posting a public list, and just being “straight up.” The F group, on the other hand, took a long time to come to a conclusion, with many differing opinions. They reported having a fair amount of dispute between them, having found it difficult to agree on what the goal actually was: some believed it was to win the tournament; others felt it was more important to keep everyone together. Their plan was to have skill as a factor, but not the deciding factor, and would be weighed alongside commitment, too. For example, a player who never showed up to practice but was more athletically inclined may lose out to someone who isn’t quite as good an athlete, but showed dedication by practicing regularly with the team. They decided that they would inform the players by having the coach meet with them individually, letting those who didn’t make it know why, and offering ways they could improve. They also shared similar experiences they’d had personally, and how it had made them feel. One student gave a hypothetical example of two employees going for the same senior position, one having worked there for 20 years, and one newcomer who may be more skilled and competent. “As a manager, I feel like as Fs, we take longer to reach decisions – a T would probably just promote the more skilled employee, and an F might reach the same conclusion, but it would take them longer to get there.”

The final activity separated Js and Ps, and asked students to organize a picnic for their group. The J group came back reporting a specific place, time of year (fall, so it’s not too hot or cold, and there are less bugs), and assigned specific tasks to each person attending (even going so far as to designate items by food group). They had backup plans in case of inclement weather and everything was clearly organized. The P group, in contrast, had a different approach: Their location was “a big field, with lots of activities,” and they expressed clear disdain for the idea of everyone having to eat at the same time. They wanted there to be lots to do with nothing set in stone to allow people to decide for themselves what they wanted to do. “You know those events where everything is all planned out? Can we not do that? Can we just play it by ear?” said one student.  There was no set start or end time, and they decided that if it rained, they’d either play in the rain or have tents.

Students learned that by understanding the differences in personality, they were able to respect what each other brought to the table instead of simply opposing it, Ps could work on being more attentive to the needs of a detail-oriented J, and Js could work on being more relaxed and open when working with a P. Students left buzzing, chatting about their differences, similarities, new understanding, and how they could bring MBTI into their daily lives.