Friday, September 21, 2018

Using Personality Testing to Differentiate the High School Classroom Experience


Individual differences shape the student experience. One of the greatest challenges teachers face is tailoring the physical classroom environment, classroom procedures, behavioral expectations, consequences, and pedagogy to create an effective, safe, inclusive, and respectful learning environment for each and every student under their care. Historically, this challenge has been met with a wide variety of ideas. Some are effective. Some are not. 

Quality teachers possess and/or develop the ability to intuitively assess what each student requires to reach their full potential. Unfortunately, this is a skill that may take years to develop. Even when a teacher does develop this skill, it requires significant contact with the student to get an accurate "read" on their needs and abilities. 

This current project hypothesizes that this process can be dramatically improved with the effective use of a personality assessment instrument. Both novice and veteran teachers can use the data from personality instruments to tailor their classroom to meet the individual needs of students with minimal time or effort, and with significantly better objective and subjective outcomes. 

The current project utilizes the NERIS Type Indicator, a popular, free online trait-based instrument available at Personality tests in general suffer from mediocre validity and reliability, but the popularity of the Neris Type Indicator has given the creators a large pool of data (n ~ 147 million) to produce five acceptably-distinct, internally-consistent, valid scales with good test/ re-test reliability over a six month period. Finally, the test does not collect identifying data on respondents, which alleviates privacy concerns. 

The instrument will give teachers some insight to student dispositions such as:

  • Which students enjoy leading and which students prefer playing a support role
  • Is the student agreeable or argumentative?
  • Does the student prefer working with hypotheticals or concrete concepts?
  • Does the student prefer praise or criticism?
  • Is the student a perfectionist, or are they comfortable with "good enough"?
  • Is the student honest or are they prone to deception?
  • Are their behaviors guided by logic,intuition, or emotion?

This test is ideal because the results produce sixteen distinct personality types which provide enough detail in layman's terms to be utilized by any teacher with minimal knowledge of personality assessment. These sixteen constructs can be used to inform teachers of student traits that can be used for:

  • Developing a more personal connection to individual students
  • Developing classroom rules and consequences
  • Developing classroom procedures
  • Assigning groups for cooperative or competitive group work
  • Creating seating charts
  • Guiding effective pedagogical design
  • Guiding effective grading strategies
This approach attempts to differentiate the organization of class instead of the more common approach of differentiating instruction (using methods such as Gardner's "multiple intelligences" or"response to intervention" methodologies.) 

Potential Problems

This approach has multiple potential drawbacks and is not intended to be a one-size-fits-all solution to education reform. Rather, it is an approach to basic classroom organization, management, and pedagogical design that may simplify the process teachers use to differentiate their classroom experience to individual students. The following are a few of the anticipated problems that may arise when this methodology is put into practice.

  • Inaccuracy - No personality test will provide a perfectly valid and reliable window into the inner-workings of our students. Re-testing may help get a more accurate picture of student personality, especially with the passage of time.
  • Self-fulfilling prophecies - How teachers treat kids after learning their results may be skewed by particular results, which may produce the very behaviors the teacher expects. This may not be a negative consequence for good behaviors, but has the potential to harm students who are expected to engage in bad behaviors. Because of this, it may be prudent for the teacher to exercise caution when assuming negative characteristics.
  • Time - While the test itself only takes approximately 20-30 minutes to administer, organizing, analyzing, and utilizing the data may take many hours. Given that most teachers have a finite amount of time to dedicate to all aspects of teaching, experimenting with a concept such as this may not be a worthwhile use of time.
  • Resources needed - This particular test requires an internet-enabled device, and an internet connection,which may not be available to all teachers. 
  • Risk of information overload - Teachers typically have a wealth of student information available. If additional information becomes too much to reasonably process, the information loses all value.


This project will assess student personality using the NERIS Type Indicator, which will then be used for a variety of classroom organization and management purposes, and also used to help guide pedagogy. This phase of the project is experimental in nature, and will be used to determine if further implementation would be beneficial. I will periodically report my findings, experiences, and other results. 


Using Personality Testing to Differentiate the High School Classroom Experience

Introduction Individual differences shape the student experience. One of the greatest challenges teachers face is tailoring the phys...