One of the questions I get asked the most by teachers and parents is if there is any connection between personality type and learning style. We’re all wired to process information differently. Intuitives prefer conceptual, abstract information whereas sensors prefer concrete, factual information. Extroverted children learn better in groups whereas introverted children generally learn better independently. That said, there are so many nuances and variables between each type and how they prefer to learn and that’s what this post is about! Be warned, this post is looong. Lots of scrolling may be involved!
The ISTJ Learning Style
ISTJs tend to learn best through experience, hands-on practice, and repetition. They like a highly structured learning environment and can absorb information better when they have a steady, consistent routine. They retain facts very well and usually excel in reading apprehension, math, science, and any kind of technical field. In school, they are highly focused on competence, achievement, and consistency. They want clear objectives and expectations, and they will struggle with teachers who are wishy-washy, skip over details, or who have too many vague expectations. They like instructions to be given in a sequential, step-by-step order if at all possible.
ISTJs like plenty of time to think over the tasks in hand independently before joining in a group. They are usually independent, observant learners, although they can do well in small group settings. Large groups tend to make them apprehensive, but they do enjoy the freedom to ask their teachers questions. Theoretical or conceptual subjects should be given as homework for ISTJs, that way they have the time to study the concepts more in-depth and at their own pace.
The MBTI® Manual states that ISTJs are adaptively creative learners. This means that they like to apply existing solutions and techniques to new scenarios and changed situations. They try to do things better each time and focus on perfecting their technique. Adaptive creative types like to create original ideas that are more likely to fit existing models. They are usually systematic, disciplined, and focused on refining techniques and solving problems.
In a survey I conducted about type and education preferences, ISTJs chose public school as their preferred environment for learning. Private school followed close behind with homeschooling in last place. Unschooling had no votes at all.
Related: Getting to Know the ISTJ
The ISFJ Learning Style
ISFJs, like ISTJs, like to learn through experience, hands-on practice, repetition, and memorization. They thrive in a highly-structured learning environment where the expectations are clear and the routine is consistent. They like sequential, step-by-step instructions and they like to know that their teachers respect and appreciate them. Regular affirmation by teachers and parents helps them to feel confident in their abilities. They retain details and facts very well and usually excel in reading apprehension, language arts, social studies, and anything with a practical application. They like to learn in a linear style and can get frustrated with teachers who bounce around a lot when they teach, or who skip over details.
ISFJs like plenty of time to observe and think over the tasks and details of their lessons before interacting with a group. Even a few minutes after lectures will allow them some time to reflect and organize their thoughts before they are expected to join into a group activity or brainstorming session. They work best independently or in small groups, but can feel more hesitant in larger groups.
According to the MBTI® Manual, ISFJs get better grades than the average student in high school, and they are rated by psychologists as one of two types least likely to have trouble in school. They are also the second most frequent type among education majors.
In a survey I conducted about type and education preferences, ISFJs chose public school as their preferred environment for learning, but homeschooling followed close behind, with only two fewer votes. Private school had very few votes, and unschooling had no votes at all.
Related: Understanding ISFJ Feeling
The ESTJ Learning Style
ESTJs learn best by experiencing, analyzing, and memorizing. They thrive in a challenging, highly-structured environment with a consistent routine and clear expectations. They like instructions to be given in a clear, sequential order and they like visual demonstrations as much as possible. They generally will take notes and retain facts and details very well. They prefer linear teaching as opposed to roundabout, abstract teaching that is more likely to be employed by intuitive teachers. They usually excel in math, history, and any form of practical or applied study.
ESTJs tend to do well in group discussion and learning situations. They like to think out loud with their peers and discuss facts and ideas in order to understand the concepts better. They may struggle when paired with perceiving students as these types take a more adaptive, informal approach in contrast to their own focused, structured approach. As extroverts, ESTJs enjoy doing hands-on projects and working with their peers. They are usually quite happy to take a leadership position and organize group discussion and activities.
According to the MBTI® Manual, ESTJs have a high academic self esteem and are left hemisphere learners. They are the most frequent of the types among industrial and technical teachers as well as among vocational teachers. They are also among the four types with the highest overall undergraduate grades.
In a survey I conducted about type and education preferences, ESTJs chose public school as their preferred environment for learning. Homeschooling and private school tied for second place. Unschooling received no votes at all.
Related: The Top 7 Gift Ideas for ESTJs
The ESFJ Learning Style
ESFJs tend to learn best through collaboration, hands-on experience, memorization, and real-life application. They are happiest in a highly-structured environment where harmony and collaboration are encouraged and fostered. They are usually very hard-working and responsible in their studies, and are quick to pick up and memorize facts. They are careful note-takers, but they are also observant “shepherds” who look around to make sure everyone in the class feels accepted and included. ESFJs tend to enjoy being facilitators in the classroom; they like helping out their teachers and coming alongside students who are struggling and giving encouragement. They greatly desire order in their learning environment. They will feel frustrated and unable to focus if their teachers are wishy-washy, vague about expectations, or have an ever changing routine.
It’s very important for ESFJs to feel at home in the classroom and to feel that their teachers respect and appreciate them. They become extremely uncomfortable if they feel criticized, or if they feel that one of their classmates is being criticized. They will lose respect for teachers who are highly critical or who are more focused on competition than cooperation. The harmonious atmosphere of the classroom is just as important to an ESFJ as the clarity of the content being taught.
ESFJs enjoy group activities and often make great leaders, ensuring that each person is heard and involved. They love team projects, building rapport, and organizing a schedule. According to the MBTI® Manual, ESFJs are the most frequent type among education majors and the highest in college retention.
In a survey I conducted about type and education preferences, ESFJs chose public school as their preferred environment for learning. Private school came in second place, and homeschooling came in last place. Unschooling received no votes at all.
Related: Are ENFJs and ESFJs “Fake”?
The ISTP Learning Style
ISTPs learn best through hands-on, kinesthetic interaction and straightforward, logical teaching. They are extremely independent learners and enjoy a steep, challenging learning curve. They prefer to have freedom and privacy to study at their own pace. Highly-structured learning environments feel stifling to them and teachers who give long lectures are frustrating for them. They like their lessons to-the-point, direct, clear, and filled with real-life examples. They usually excel in math and practical skills.
ISTPs aren’t particularly fond of group study as a general rule. Competitions and games can be fun for them, but otherwise they prefer to work on their own with their own parameters. They do a lot of their analysis inwardly and are less likely to “think out loud” when solving a problem. For this reason, teachers can think that they are distracted or unfocused when really they are just privately analyzing the information that’s been given.
ISTPs like to learn best in a hands-on, kinesthetic way. Manuals and textbooks are less effective than learning through trial-and-error and experimentation. Unfortunately, ISTPs are rated by psychologists as the type most likely to have trouble in school. This is likely due to the fact that SPs are one of the most underserved temperaments in education. During elementary and high school many of the classes are taught and geared towards SJ (Sensing Judging) children, and in college classes are often taught and geared towards intuitives. ISTPs who eschew structure and tradition and favor independent analysis and hands-on experimentation are rarely given the appropriate environment for their unique learning style.
In a survey I conducted about type and education preferences, ISTPs chose trade school as their favored learning environment. This was followed closely by homeschooling and then unschooling. Public school and private school ranked lowest in their choices of preferred education.
Related: The Top 7 Gift Ideas for ISTPs
The ISFP Learning Style
ISFPs learn best through exploration, experimentation, and hands-on learning. Having a harmonious learning environment with a supportive teacher is extremely important to them. They evaluate data according to their values, but they also trust facts and personal experience. They learn best by doing and by getting their hands on things and seeing the real life cause-and-effect of actions. They can usually absorb information better in a colorful, beautiful environment with a friendly, accommodating atmosphere.
ISFPs are highly independent and private learners. Highly structured environments can feel stifling and overwhelming to them, and they prefer a more open-ended, creative approach. They enjoy having one-on-one coaching by a teacher they respect, and they CAN enjoy group activities but they hate being put on the spot or forced into competitions.
Making learning fun and hands-on is extremely important for teachers of ISFPs. They like teaching to be direct and to-the-point and they learn well through visual demonstrations with bullet points, videos, diagrams and charts.
In a survey I conducted about type and education preferences, ISFPs chose unschooling as their preferred learning environment. This was followed by homeschooling and then public school came in last place.
The ESTP Learning Style
ESTPs learn best through kinesthetic, hands-on experience and clear, logical instruction. They prefer to be in an open-ended environment where they can get their hands-on things and experiment with a group. They need regular breaks to be active and physically engage with the world around them. This helps them to maintain focus while sitting still for too long can make them distracted and frustrated. ESTPs are inspired by tangible reality and learning environments where they can touch, smell, manipulate, and see objects up close. They enjoy collaborative learning with regular breaks to get up and move around.
ESTPs like instruction to be clear, direct, and logical. They like to see real-life cause and effect of actions and they will be less interested in theory. They will get frustrated with rambling lectures or highly structured environments. According to the MBTI® Manual, they rank higher on deductive reasoning than dominant thinking or feeling types (ETJs, ITPs, EFJs, IFPs). The manual also states that they prefer the academic subjects of history, math, and practical skills.
To make learning interesting and stimulating for ESTPs, it’s best to give them opportunities to solve problems quickly. They also thrive in competitive atmospheres. They are motivated by contests, challenges, and rewards. They want frank and direct feedback and they want to know their teachers are competent and credible.
In a survey I conducted about type and education preferences, ESTPs chose public schooling as their preferred learning environment, with unschooling coming in a very close second place. Homeschooling came in third place and private schooling came in last place.
Related: 5 Ways to Annoy an ESTP
The ESFP Learning Style
ESFPs enjoy a hands-on, interactive, harmonious learning environment. Like ESTPs, they need regular breaks to move around and stretch their legs. They will usually excel in a classroom where they are able to collaborate with other students, do plenty of group exercises and projects, and use manipulatives and hands-on techniques as much as possible. They tend to feel stifled in a highly structured learning environment and thrive better in an open-ended, flexible classroom. Unfortunately very few classrooms espouse this style of learning at the moment.
ESFPs learn well in action, or “on the job”. An interesting thing about ESFPs is because they are so affected by their external environment, it’s important for them to be in a place they enjoy to study. They tend to perform better in a place that seems welcoming, harmonious, and aesthetically pleasing. They tend to perform worse in places that seem gloomy, boring, rigid, and/or critical. Academically they are among the highest persisters in college and they rate higher on deductive reasoning than dominant thinking or feeling types (ETJs, ITPs, EFJs, IFPs). According to the MBTI® manual they prefer creative subjects like art, drama, and dance. They also tend to perform well in social studies and practical skills.
ESFPs like to give and receive positive feedback, and this is an important aspect of their learning environment. As children especially they need teachers who show them support and encouragement. They can struggle in their younger years with taking criticism personally, but they thrive when they feel welcomed. They learn best when they are given real-life examples to draw from. As one of the most realistic types, ESFPs like to know the real-world application of what they’re learning and have less patience for theoretical “what if’s”.
In a survey I conducted about type and education preferences, ESFPs chose public schooling as their preferred learning environment, with unschooling coming in a very close second place. Homeschooling came in third place and private schooling came in last place.
Related: 5 Ways to Annoy an ESFP
The INTJ Learning Style
INTJs benefit most from a highly conceptual, theoretical learning style. They tend to enjoy a structured yet open-minded learning environment. Instead of being given step-by-step instructions, INTJs prefer to be given an overview or overarching framework for what they will learn. Then they like to process and complete the tasks in their own way. They make excellent independent learners and also work well in one-to-one settings. They may be hesitant to participate in group discussion because they usually need time to think and process information internally before they are ready to discuss it out loud.
Classrooms that bother INTJs tend to be ones where everything is presented in a very “black and white” format. INTJs like to integrate and explore many different perspectives and are likely to challenge rules or principles that are presented as absolutes. They will often, especially as children, challenge many of the things they learn and be extremely skeptical until they can be sure that whatever “facts” are being presented are actually true. They also struggle in class settings where everything is a group discussion and they aren’t given enough time to privately process the information in their own minds. They like to have a quiet space they can analyze information and create a mental model before interacting with others and presenting what they know.
INTJs aren’t as adept at absorbing facts and details as sensing types are, they tend to learn better through putting together connections and relationships to remember things. Rote memorization and repetition bore them so they usually will try to remember what’s important by developing analogies or acronyms to memorize enough information to pass an exam.
INTJs like teachers who seem competent, open-minded, and logical. They can usually handle constructive criticism very well and they tend to do well in school. According to the MBTI® Manual, INTJs are among the top two types for undergraduate grades. They are also one of two types with the highest first-semester college grades. They have the highest grades among persisters in college and of all the types, INTJs consistently have the highest IQ scores (MBTI® Manual, page 269).
In a survey I conducted about type and education preferences, INTJs chose private schooling as their preferred learning environment, with homeschooling coming in second place, public school in third, and unschooling in last place.
The INFJ Learning Style
Like INTJs, INFJs also prefer a highly conceptual, theoretical learning style. They enjoy having a structure, but don’t enjoy being told exactly how to do something or following the same routine day after day. They prefer being given an overall goal or an overarching framework and then filling in that framework with concepts and supporting facts and meanings. They are systems thinkers and future-oriented planners and are stimulated by complex projects and challenges. They tend to excel when writing essays, where they have the freedom to privately process the information and add thoughts and perspectives in their own way. Their favorite academic subjects are usually art, English, and music.
INFJs try to put together analogies or acronyms to memorize information but will quickly get frustrated in an environment that focuses heavily on rote memorization and repetition. They also tend to bristle at “black and white” rules or teaching. As dominant Ni users they see everything from many different perspectives and shades of gray and tend to be skeptical of hard and fast rules and “absolutes”. While they may not outwardly express their disregard, inwardly they can find themselves turning over objections and exploring many different arguments and then presenting a model or project that contradicts what their teacher was saying.
INFJs excel as independent learners or with one-to-one coaching. They like to have plenty of private time to process information and create a mental image or model of what they are trying to understand or produce. Classrooms where group discussion is prevalent and there isn’t adequate time to think quietly before discussing can be stressful for them.
INFJs enjoy an encouraging, harmonious learning environment. They like criticism to be presented tactfully and they can also take it personally when teachers are critical with other students. They are most stimulated when they know how a concept can help people or humanity in some way and when they understand how academics fit into the bigger picture.
According to the MBTI® Manual, INFJs are one of two types (along with INTJs) with the highest first-semester college grades. They are also among the top four types for undergraduate grades, and among the highest college persisters.
In a survey I conducted about type and education preferences, INFJs chose homeschooling as their preferred environment for learning. Private school came in second place, public school came in third, and unschooling came in last place.
Want a comprehensive guide to the INFJ personality type? Check out my eBook, The INFJ – Understanding the Mystic.
Related: 10 Must-Read Books for INFJs
The ENTJ Learning Style
ENTJs learn best in a structured, organized, and competitive learning environment. They have a strategic focus when they learn and are always keeping their eye on long-term goals and system improvements. Like other Ni users, ENTJs like structure but they don’t like a rigid routine where they are told exactly what to do. They enjoy being given an overarching framework and a goal and then being able to fill in that framework or complete the goal in their own independent way. ENTJs are very skeptical of authority and have no problem calling out their teachers if they find flaws in their logic or if they can’t back up their arguments with credible sources and facts. They can get caught arguing semantics with their professors and teachers and they tend to feel energized by debate. In fact, they often excel in debate teams or in any setting that allows them to compete.
ENTJs are stimulated by complex and abstract ideas and they are driven to explore the logical frameworks behind these ideas. They are extremely decisive, logical, and focused on accomplishing goals. They have a strong focus on efficiency and can get frustrated with teachers who seem long-winded or rambling in their speech. They enjoy group activities as long as the group is able to stay on task, and they may find themselves naturally taking the lead in these settings as they generally are drawn towards leadership anyway.
According to the MBTI® Manual, ENTJs are among the top four types for college grades, among the highest in college retention, and they have the highest grades among persisters in college. Their favored academic subjects are English and science.
In a survey I conducted about type and education preferences, ENTJs chose private school as their preferred environment for learning. Unschooling came in second place, public school in third, and homeschooling in last place. At first I was surprised to see unschooling ranked so highly by ENTJs as most extroverts and/or judging types preferred a more structured approach, but this is a testament to the independence of ENTJs and their ability to be self-directed learners.
The ENFJ Learning Style
ENFJs are conceptual, theoretical learners who are always asking themselves “how will this information help or impact people?”. They enjoy a collaborative, harmonious learning environment and are very good facilitators and mentors to students who might be struggling in class or feeling left out. They enjoy having a structure but they don’t necessarily want a repetitive routine. Unlike ESFJs, ENFJs prefer to be given an overarching framework or “end goal” and then find their own unique ways to complete a project or fill in information. They tend to learn new concepts well and they like to find opportunities for personal as well as group growth in the lessons. ENFJs, like other intuitives, want the big picture first. They will get bored if they start with all the details and facts and lead up to the big picture.
ENFJs are very focused on ensuring that there is harmony in the classroom. They are always keeping tabs on how the people around them are feeling and are usually quick to give support to students who are struggling. They tend to study very methodically and are usually on time with their homework. According to the MBTI® Manual, ENFJs prefer the academic subjects of art, English, and music. They tend to be very creative, in fact female ENFJs are among the three highest in one out of two measures of creativity. ENFJs are also rated by psychologists as one of the two types least likely to have trouble in school (along with ISFJs).
ENFJs are very collaborative learners. They enjoy thinking through ideas and concepts out loud with their peers, however they can feel uncomfortable during debates or highly competitive programs. Their natural desire for harmony can impede their desire to win. During group discussion ENFJs are very receptive to the different viewpoints of their peers, but they are also very aware of timing and schedule conflicts and they may take a “supervisory” approach so that everyone stays on task and all the main points are discussed before time runs out.
In a survey I conducted about type and education preferences, ENFJs chose public school as their preferred learning environment. Private school came in second place, homeschooling came in third, and unschooling came in last.
Related: How ENFJs Handle Conflict
The INTP Learning Style
INTPs have a very critical, analytical, and conceptual learning style. They prefer independent study more than many other types and are usually skilled self-directed learners. When they participate in a class or course they ask themselves what they are learning and why. They are mainly interested in learning subjects that will help them problem solve, develop an expertise, or theorize. They are apt to ask challenging, thought-provoking questions of their teachers, and because of their ability to spot flaws in logic so quickly they may seem nitpicky to some. If teachers tell them to stop asking questions or just to accept rules based on tradition INTPS will get frustrated.
INTPs are more concerned with meeting their own standards than they are with meeting an external set of standards. They have high intellectual goals for themselves and if the lessons they are being taught don’t align with what they think is worthwhile they will often spend their time thinking about other more stimulating ideas. Grades and scores mean far less to INTPs (and ISTPs) than they do to students of other types.
INTPs typically don’t see a lot of point in group or team activities. They like to quietly analyze a problem without being distracted by other people. They work well alone and are naturally curious about the world around them so they tend to learn by default. They like abstract learning and exploring theories and original ideas. They enjoy branching out in their learning to discover connecting ideas and concepts. They tend to feel stifled in highly structured learning environments and will get bored when having to do a lot of memorization or methodical study.
According to the MBTI® Manual, INTPs prefer the academic subjects of art and science. They also measure three highest on two of three measures of creativity. They are also one of two types (the other being INTJ) who consistently get the highest IQ scores.
In a survey I conducted about type and education preferences, INTPs chose unschooling as their preferred learning environment. Homeschooling came in second place, private school came in third, and public school came in last.
Related: The Childhood Struggles of INTPs
The INFP Learning Style
INFPs have a very imaginative, conceptual, and creative learning style. They are often drawn to independent learning or one-on-one coaching environments. They need a lot of time to think and process information privately before speaking or “thinking out loud”. They dislike being put on the spot and they also tend to feel stifled in highly structured environments. They are often gifted students, and according to the MBTI® Manual, they are one of three personality types who consistently get the highest IQ scores (along with INTJs and INTPs).
INFPs can enjoy collaborative learning as long as they’ve had time to get to know the other students and aren’t pushed into the process too early. They will feel frustrated if they are put on the spot or not given enough time to analyze the information internally before being pushed to “perform” or answer questions. When it comes to the subject matter being taught, INFPs are always looking for the value and personal implications of the material. They want to have a personal connection to the lesson and they want to know how the information will benefit them or other people. They have an exploratory learning style and are usually extremely creative when allowed to work at their own pace. They tend to excel in foreign language learning, art, English, and music.
In a survey I conducted about type and education preferences, INFPs chose homeschooling as their preferred learning environment. Private school came in second place, public school came in third place, and unschooling came in last place.
Related: The Childhood Struggles of INFPs
The ENTP Learning Style
ENTPs have a highly innovative, conceptual, and abstract learning style. They look for connections and relationships between concepts and they prefer an open-ended, exploratory environment where they can be free to ask questions. They tend to dislike highly structured learning environments and learning that revolves around lectures, especially if those lectures include a tremendous amount of detail and facts. They learn better if they are given an overarching theme or model that they can fill in with related facts and details on their own. They are attracted to activities that encourage them to integrate, strategize, make inferences, and extrapolate. They can seem debative in the classroom because they will often bring up arguments to the main point, especially if their teacher has a very “black and white” mode of teaching.
Settings with flexible rules, structures, and timelines tend to enhance the learning experience for ENTPs. They enjoy collaborating with other students and swapping ideas, thinking out loud, and coming up with creative projects and solutions. They are very enthusiastic, innovative, and questioning and can help to open the minds of their fellow students (and teachers) to possibilities and potential that could’ve easily gotten missed without them. They excel with teachers who expose them to a broad range of ideas and perspectives.
ENTPs are highly logical individuals and can handle constructive criticism very well. They like to look at problems objectively and are usually skilled at quick problem solving. They tend to struggle with remembering details and facts and can succeed at this better if they organize facts into themes or patterns.
According to the MBTI® Manual, ENTPs are among the three highest on two out of three measures of creativity. They also prefer the academic subjects of art and science.
In a survey I conducted about type and education preferences, ENTPs chose public school as their preferred learning environment. Unschooling came in second place, followed by homeschooling and then private school.
Related: 10 Things That Terrify ENTPs
The ENFP Learning Style
ENFPs have a highly conceptual, imaginative, and abstract learning style. They work well in a collaborative, open-ended environment where they are free to ask questions, bring up related ideas, and brainstorm with their teacher and fellow students. They tend to dislike highly structured learning environments and learning that involves a lot of fact memorization and retention. They perform better when they are given overarching themes and models that they can fill in on their own with related facts and details. ENFPs are especially motivated when they can apply theories and concepts to matters of personal growth and service to others.
ENFPs will be most comfortable with a teacher who takes the time to get to know them and gives plenty of personal feedback. They like to hear many diverse perspectives and viewpoints and they enjoy extrapolating on the subject matter with numerous related ideas and possibilities. They can seem argumentative but this is rarely their goal, they are usually just trying to bring up perspectives that perhaps the curriculum or teacher haven’t considered. Teachers who have a very “black and white” method of teaching or who do things very much by the book can be frustrating for ENFPs, especially young ENFPs.
ENFPs tend to dislike a lot of critical feedback. It’s important that teachers assure them of their abilities before they give criticism. A classroom where they are receiving more criticism than encouragement will be very frustrating for them.
According to the MBTI® Manual, ENFPs are highly represented among third- to sixth-grade academically talented students. They rank higher on deductive reasoning than feeling types, with other dominant intuitive types, and they prefer the academic subjects of art, English, and music.
In a survey I conducted about type and education preferences, ENFPs chose public school as their preferred learning environment. Homeschooling came in second place, followed by unschooling, and then private school.
Related: 5 Ways to Annoy an ENFP
What Are Your Thoughts?
Do you relate to the learning style for your type? Let us know in the comments!
Find out more about your personality type in our eBook, Discovering You: Unlocking the Power of Personality Type.
Introduction to Type and Learning by Donna Dunning
The MBTI® Manual – A Guide to the Development and Use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® Instrument – Third Edition by Isabel Briggs Myers, Mary H. McCaulley, Naomi L. Quenk, and Allen L. Hammer
Building Blocks of Personality Type by Leona Haas and Mark Hunziker