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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Unique Tool, Re-Offered

A Unique Tool, Re-Offered

By Dr. Ryan Donlan
Department of Educational Leadership
Bayh College of Education
Indiana State University

As I recently had the privilege of presenting Personality, Identity, and the African American Student Experience with Dr. Kandace Hinton at the Indiana State University Student Success Conference, and in that venue had an opportunity for dialogue with many around campus regarding current pedagogy in our nation’s schools. It is from that experience that I got the idea to “re-offer” an earlier ISU Ed. Leadershop article from October 5, 2012, originally run under the title of A Unique Tool for Achievement.  I have made a few editorial changes and am presenting it below, as it is well worth our continued conversation.


After years of “reform-this” and “redesign that,” we’re left with the sobering reality that a gap continues to exist between the educational performance of students in our nation’s schools.
I have shared in my classes, in previous Leadershop articles, and in many speaking engagements, that if we are to be effective in our classrooms and schools, we must shift our personality energies while communicating with students. A wonderful example of the relevance of this information is Dr. Dianne F. Bradley’s, A Unique Tool for Closing the Gap (2007), published in the Spring/Summer edition of the Journal of the Alliance of Black School Educators.  The article is fairly easy to find with a quick, on-line search.
Bradley (2007) builds on the work of Dr. Taibi Kahler regarding the six personality energies that reside in students and are important in children’s academic readiness and potential for learning in school. 

These personalities are as follows:

The Persister – This personality processes the world through its beliefs and has the qualities of being dedicated, conscientious, and observant.
The Thinker – This personality processes the world through its thoughts and has the qualities of being logical, responsible, and organized.
The Harmonizer – This personality processes the world through its emotions and has the qualities of being compassionate, sensitive, and warm.
The Rebel – This personality processes the world through its reactions and has the qualities of being spontaneous, creative, and fun.
The Promoter – This personality processes the world through its actions and has the qualities of being charming, persuasive, and adaptable.
The Imaginer – This personality processes the world through its inactions and has the qualities of being calm, reflective, and imaginative. (Kahler, 2008)

            What is interesting about Bradley’s work is it offers a NEW explanation for our nation’s continuing achievement gap (albeit “2007,” I realize). She noted classroom teaching methodologies in our nation’s schools mostly reflect White/Anglo values, which are a mismatch with the preferred learning pattern for African American students. Bradley addressed the issue from an embedded values standpoint, those that are nurtured, celebrated, and reinforced in the home lives of students.  

Her points were as follows:

Oftentimes, the communication barriers that exist between mostly white teachers and their African American students (boys, as one example) result in referrals for disciplinary action, rather than teachers’ using the healthy differences that exist in communication as teachable moments to enhance learning (Bradley, 2007).  Teachers sometimes do not “SHIFT” in their styles of communication, and when not doing so, they cause problems for themselves and their students. 
            It is not so much a refusal to shift, I would contend, as it is an unawareness that entirely different communication and cultural patterns exist, those that should be learned, valued, and utilized in classroom instruction.

            The Euro-centric classroom should not be the only game in town. This is critical for both teachers and instructional leaders to understand.

            Preferred learning patterns of Euro-Americans focus on competitiveness and individuality.  Euro-American households encourage their children to learn to sit still from an early age and passively receive information that is being taught.  Conversely, African American households tend to be more group-oriented and less competitive, with more “vocal response, physical movement, and verve” (Bradley, 2007, p. 22). 

Higher energy learning strategies are oftentimes absent from Euro-centric instructional techniques.  Higher energy learning strategies are “a must” for an African American student audience.

            What is particularly interesting about Bradley’s research is that she overlays the preferred learning styles of Euro-Americans with those of Kahler’s personalities of Thinker and Persister. These personalities focus on valuing individuality, time orientation, work and achievement orientation, and competitiveness. Preferred learning styles of African-Americans, conversely, align more with Kahler’s personalities of Rebel and Promoter.  These personalities focus on communalism/group orientations, reactions with movement, action/excitement, and relevance (Bradley, 2007; Kahler, 2008).

            “Although we cannot make sweeping generalizations about the way that students of various races, cultures and personality types learn, certain patterns exist” (Bradley, 2007, p. 29).  The Euro-centered approaches so prevalent in our nation’s schools work just fine for those students who are logical, responsible, and organized, as well as those who are dedicated, conscientious, and observant.  Yet these approaches work not as well for our students who are more spontaneous, creative, and playful, as well as those who are charming, persuasive, and adaptable.
            Bradley encourages the use of more culturally competent instruction, in conjunction to those strategies that are mindful of the theories of Kahler’s Process Education Model (2008), as “employing these practices will help us begin to close the gap that keeps students whose learning patterns differ from their teachers, from achieving in school” (Bradley, 2007, p. 30).
            It all begins with an understanding of those who are different from us and our willingness and abilities to shift into others’ perceptual and communication frames accordingly.  As educators and leaders, we OWN the responsibility to shift, as well as the understanding that all personality energies are equally “OK.” 
Some students, because of their personality structures, perform better than others in school (within a Euro-centric-structured system), and unless we are willing to reframe how we think of school organization and delivery, we will be working against the natural and beautiful attributes of many personalities as we try to promote content competence.

Our responsibility starts with holding up a mirror to ourselves, realizing that although divergent personalities of every race, color, and ethnicity are currently “OK” as they come into our schools, our teaching and leading, as we serve it up for them, “might not be.”

Dr. Dianne F. Bradley has authored/co-authored three books:
Effective Classroom Management: Six Keys to Success (Rowman & Littlefield Education, 2006), Here’s How to Reach Me: Matching Instruction to Personality Types in Your Classroom (Brookes, 2002), and Teaching Students in Inclusive Settings: From Theory to Practice (Allyn and Bacon, 1997).


Bradley, D. (2007, Spring/Summer). A unique tool for closing the gap.  Journal of the Alliance of Black School Educators, 6(2). 20-31.

Kahler, T. (2008). The process therapy model. Little Rock, AR: Taibi Kahler Associates.


Dr. Donlan share research interests with Dr. Bradley and has spent time talking with her at conferences of mutual interest and would love to extend this conversation at or via (812) 237-8624. 

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