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Train to Your Student’s Personality Type by Jamie St. Dennis

Posted 3 years 85 days ago ago by Admin

Training by Personality Type

It was 20 years ago that I reported to Fort Rucker, Alabama, as a newly minted instructor pilot, and little did I know that would be the fork in the road that changed the way I would forever see, communicate, and train pilots and people over my lifetime. Many of us took Psychology 101 in college where we received rudimentary information on personality types and cognitive functions. I was unaware at the time how theory would turn into concrete reality, and how observable and quantifiable that theory would be.

The Fort Rucker syllabus was typical of any flight training, and the schoolhouse provided a constant flow of students in an environment akin to a laboratory, replete with controls and structure. I had the opportunity to observe multiple students completing the same actions in a controlled environment; it took less than six months before I began to see the patterns. At first, I had no idea what I stumbled upon, it’s significance, and how it would change my teaching. Furthermore, it would solidify in my mind the scientific nature of personality type.

I noticed that the students were often using identical terminology beyond that of the checklist and standard callouts; the way they spoke in normal conversations, when problem solving, and at work and play had a pattern! At first I didn’t link this to personality type, though I did label the students’ type in each class and began the process of categorizing their behavior and language. Next I began experimenting with vocabulary to test reactions. It was uncanny how certain types responded to particular phrases and words, and it was at this point that I began developing and fine tuning instruction and delivery methods for each of the 16 classified personality types.

The human brain functions in a predictable pattern as it makes perceptions and then acts upon them. We do this thousands of times each day with little notice that we are using specific functions, or preferences, of the brain. It is said that there are over 7 billion people on earth; however, there are only 16 cognitive patterns found among the (normal) human race. If a flight instructor learns the students preferred pattern, it is possible to predict the outcome of a maneuver long before it reaches a critical state. Better yet, the instructor can start speaking the correct ‘language’ and provide superior instruction, reduce training time, and nearly eliminate the possibility of an accident.

Many are aware of Jungian theory and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator; however, most people don’t realize that each personality type makes decisions in the same way. Each type in the world processes information in their same manner. That’s not to say we all do the same things within each type: one may like steak while another likes chicken. How each person makes the decision of what to like is identical within a type. Armed with this knowledge we know exactly what direction the student will travel when subjected to an emergency procedure or routine oral evaluation; in the case of emergency procedures we are able to allow the student more room to correct the error and to expand the training envelope because we have a high probability of predicting their reaction.

Everyone is aware of these patterns, we see people doing things every day that are different from our own methods, unaware that it is purposeful and every bit as normal as how we are functioning. When we learn the patterns of our students, we can tailor the communications, environment, and scenario to fit the way in which their brain processes information. The student will understand precisely what is expected, master tasks faster, and avoid costly errors or incidents.

Whether it be in flight instruction, education, or personal relationships; everyone has encountered a personality they considered difficult, calm, quirky, or weird. And often, as instructors, parents, or partners we see that behavior as incorrect, as needing to be changed because it seems abnormal to us. When we begin to see people through the lens of their cognitive functions, it is much easier to understand and appreciate their behavior. Their behavior is the way they manage and navigate through life every bit as normal as our way. Take a step further and we can create stronger teams and relationships when we accept the differences and see traits as strengths.

It is impossible for me to see the world as any other type but my own; I am quite literally missing out on 15 other perspectives. My favorite thing to do when asked by a student “How should I do it?” is to sit back and let them show me a new way I’d never considered. Sure, it’s not always the best, but it always provides a roadmap of how their brain is operating and how I can connect with them on a deeper level.

This is not to suggest that we change the ‘task, condition, or standards’ of a maneuver, rather we can begin talking and presenting in a manner that supports the students preferences. By doing this we can keep them in a constant state of understanding while using the tools easiest for them. You’ll find that it’s far less about teaching and more about allowing the student to teach themselves through experiences that energize their brain. A simple example is our use of details:

  • Say to Student A- “See that field at two o’clock, intercept a normal approach angle, terminating at the farthest 1/3 of the field and a 3-foot hover. Complete the landing checks prior to descending below the obstacles.”
  • Say to Student B- “See that field over there, visualize a normal landing and then put us there.”

Note the change in detail. For some types, the brain finds specific, concrete details confusing and it actually interferes with the information their brain can easily process. It’s like feeding a vegetarian filet mignon; the intent is noble but it’s not what the person needs or wants.

Most instructors have learned that students make the same five mistakes; imagine now that it is possible to classify your students by personality type and know which of those mistakes they are most likely to make. It is that accurate and predictable! Armed with this information, we become a finely tuned team with a broader comfort zone, all while staying safe and reducing training incidents.

If you would like to know more about personality type and its applications please feel free to contact me at [email protected] or www.agopee-communcations.com