Performers scoop the prizes, pragmatists get on with the job

9th May 2003 at 01:00
CREATIVE extroverts make the best teachers - but most of them are in secondary schools.

American researchers found that primary nominees for teaching awards in Florida had very different personalities from most of their colleagues.

Previous American research has shown that the typical elementary (primary) teacher is well-organised, pragmatic and likes rules.

By contrast, the award nominees were imaginative, energetic and spontaneous extroverts.

Research presented to the American Educational Research Association's annual conference suggests that the 39 nominees for Florida's "teacher of the year" had personalities which were more like those of secondary teachers.

Stephen Rushton and Tanice Knopp, of South Florida University, and Lee Smith, of Indiana University South Bend, who carried out the profiling, suggest that imaginative "performers" are more likely to give challenging and stimulating lessons than their more down-to-earth counterparts.

"Traits may be a factor in the development of a teaching philosophy or way of teaching," say the authors.

"A particular personality type may have a greater positive effect on their students' learning," they write.

"The personality types of teachers identified as effective through 'teacher of the year' nominations may help educators to identify effective-teacher characteristics.

"Given the demand for effective public education and improved student outcomes, the ability to identify effective teachers might help educators in meeting that demand."

However, being reliable and conscientious does not make you a bad teacher, they insist, just unlikely to lead the next educational reform movement.

And they concede that the force of their outgoing personalities rather than their teaching skills could have won the 39 their nominations for teacher of the year.

"Although open to all teachers within a school, the process may favour the extroverted personalities, who tend to be more forthcoming, enterprising and articulate of their personal and educational views," they say.

US research reports, 28-29

"Teacher of the year award recipient. Myers-Briggs personality profiles: identifying teacher effectiveness profiles toward improved student outcomes", Stephen Rushton and Tanice Y Knopp, of South Florida University, and R Lee Smith, of Indiana University South Bend.Email:

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