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Personality And Teaching /Learning Engineering

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1998 Annual Conference


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 28, 1998

Start Date

June 28, 1998

End Date

July 1, 1998



Page Count


Page Numbers

3.444.1 - 3.444.2

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E. Dendy Sloan

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2230 Personality and Teaching /Learning Engineering E. Dendy Sloan, Jr. Colorado School of Mines

How do people prefer to learn? Is it possible that grades are awarded based upon personality, rather than ability? Are some personality types “weeded out” of engineering because they are different from professor personalities? How closely do engineering professor personalities match those of practicing engineers?

Questions like the above were of concern to ASEE, particularly the Education, Research, and Methods (ERM) Division, who subsidized a 1980 study of 3,718 students in eight engineering schools∗. In this ERM historical perspective session, similar studies over the previous twenty years suggest that the results may not be very time-dependent.

The Instrument. C.G. Jung1 first described personality types, as later developed into the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator2 or MBTI, a testing instrument. While only a brief (and admittedly loose) classification is given here, complete descriptions are available2,3,4. The MBTI suggests personalities differ on the following dimensions: 1. Preference for dealing with the outside world (Introversion/Extroversion). If one derives pleasure from dealing with numbers of people, or from in-depth reflections he/she may be termed an Extrovert (E) or Introvert (N) , respectively. 2. Preference for Taking Data. Whether a person pays great attention to detailed data, or prefers to make giant leaps, connecting “sketchy” dots to obtain a picture, he/she is typed as a Sensing (S) or Intuitive (N) type, respectively. 3. Preference for Making Decisions. If a person decides based upon “cold hard facts”, or if decisions are based upon empathy for others, he/she is typed as Thinking (T) or Feeling, (F) respectively. 4. Preference for Taking Data or Making Decisions. Whether one enjoys taking data and leaving options open for creativity, or making decisions rapidly and getting many things done, determines the Perceptive (P) or Judging (J) dimension.

The above four categories, each with two choices, provide 16 combinations of personality types. Differences in the 16 personality types are considered in references3,4 , dealing with various disciplines.

Test Results: Table 1 summarizes percentages of engineering students in the above four catagories for the 1980 study (as well as two earlier studies) as compared with general freshmen personality types. The table is remarkable in two aspects: (1) the similarity of results of the three engineering studies and (2) the differences of engineering students from the general college student population. The Table 1 data suggest the engineering student population contains many more introverts, thinking, and judging types than the general college freshmen, while they seemed to roughly match on the sensing/intuitive dimension (except the 1962 sample, in which engineering students were more intuitive).

∗ U. Alabama, Clemson, U., Cleveland State U., Colorado School of Mines, Cooper Union, U. Floriday, U. Houston, Indiana U. Purdue U. at Indianapolis

Sloan, E. D. (1998, June), Personality And Teaching /Learning Engineering Paper presented at 1998 Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington.

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