INFPs are known for being the dreamers, idealists, and poets of the Myers-Briggs® community. Gifted with a profound imagination and an exploratory approach to life, they yearn to understand the human experience and live up to their deeply-held values.
But how do they like to learn?
What types of teaching will most inspire them and motivate them?
That’s what we’re going to be exploring in today’s article!
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Table of contents
Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
The INFP Learning Style
For the INFP, the most important part of learning is that they know why the material is valuable to them as a person. They learn best when their inner ideals find an expression in the material they’re absorbing.
Why does this matter to me or the world?
Does this line up with my priorities as a person?
Does this inspire my imagination?
Are there possibilities for creativity here?
These are the kinds of questions INFPs will ask themselves when they’re learning new material. Deeply curious, they enjoy wandering through many pathways of knowledge, as long as there is room for imagination, possibility, and creativity.
The Importance of Environment for the INFP
INFPs are very sensitive to their environment, especially when they’re trying to gather new information and retain it. They need to feel secure and supported; therefore, if they’re dealing with antagonizing classmates or a teacher who is brusque or detached, they may struggle to be calm enough to gather the information well. If the atmosphere is loud, boisterous, and highly sensory, they can also get over-stimulated. As introverts, having a quiet space to learn is crucial. Introverts are sensitive to stimulation and can get overwhelmed by a lot of movement, lights, chattering, and action. Many INFPs need periods of solitude to absorb and study information thoroughly. They enjoy delving into books, writing stories or notes, and letting their curiosity take flight without the eyes of others around them.
The INFP Mind:
INFPs often describe their inner world as a garden of emotions, deeply-held values, and vivid imaginative possibilities. According to neuroscience expert Dario Nardi, INFPs show activity in brain region F7, which helps them to exercise a rich imagination. Nardi also states that INFPs, “can listen in a holistic way that recruits all regions of the neocortex. When someone starts talking, they enter this state, which shows on the EEG monitor as a solid bright blue. All (brain) regions are alert and yet relaxed and open to input; also, all regions are in synch rather than jumping around. The whole brain acts as a metaphorical still pond that allows a speaker to project herself and be heard.” (Find out more in Nardi’s book, Neuroscience of Personality: Brain Savvy Insights For All Types of People)
INFPs care deeply about people and their stories. If a teacher has a connection with an INFP student, or if the material aligns with their values in a discernible way, they will have their full attention. Simultaneously, the INFP may be able to reveal new ways of looking at material. Brainstorming and creative activities help them to come alive with imagination and thought-provoking ideas. If you want an INFP student to retain information, ask them to do something creative with it!
As an example, you could ask the INFP to write a short poem about a scientific fact, or you could ask them how they would feel if they lived during a particular time period in history!
How INFPs Learn Best:
A mixture of creative, collaborative work and quiet time to focus is important for INFPs. In a classroom setting, they enjoy the creativity of brainstorming and swapping ideas with other students (as long as they feel accepted). Yet they also need the peace of time alone in a quiet space where they can reflect and perfect their work. Having time to produce their own individual work in their own way is crucial. An element of creative freedom can be the missing piece that allows them to shine in the classroom!
INFPs often thrive in a setting that has a loose structure with plenty of assignments that allow for exploration. You’ll often find them inventing their own ways to solve problems rather than following the formula they’ve been taught in class. Sometimes this drives teachers crazy, but if a teacher can be open to their method, they may find that it works just as well for them.
In many ways, INFPs do their best work when it doesn’t feel like “work.” They often create little mental games or ideas that help them to stay motivated and focused. But if there is no room for them to be creative in this way, they may find their mind wandering to more fertile imaginative territory.
As intuitives, INFPs are naturally interested in the big picture. Their minds are a continuous flow of ideas, possibilities, and imaginings. They quickly see associations and meanings behind things and read between the lines. Grasping general concepts comes easily to them, but retaining a lot of impersonal details is a struggle. They will quickly hang onto concepts, concentrating on profound meanings in their work, but they may lose some details along the way. However, if the details are imbued with personal significance or relate to their values or their understanding of people, they’ll be much more motivated to mentally latch on to them.
When INFPs start learning something, they want to understand the overall concept or meaning behind it.
How does this subject relate to the big picture?
What are the key concepts?
How does this subject relate to my core values?
What possibilities does this subject spark in my mind?
What is the context or broad meaning?
When INFPs learn, they prefer to find their own way through the material rather than being managed or given a very specific, rigid set of rules.
For example, they may prefer an assignment of “Research the creativity of elephants and create a two-minute slideshow about what you’ve learned” to “Read chapter 5 in your handbook about elephants and answer the questionnaire at the end of the chapter.” Even better, ask them to list five things they like about elephants.
Often INFPs learn well through the process of reading and writing. They have a profound love for words and enjoy the lush landscapes they can create in the imagination with them. The more that INFPs prioritize reading and writing, the more talented they are at expressing their ideas, retaining information, and creating something vivid and memorable with what they are learning.
How INFPs Study:
INFPs like an open-ended study environment. They usually don’t have a rigid structure, but more of a spontaneous, exploratory approach to learning. Whatever pulls their curiosity drives them, and as they research a subject they may wind up with dozens of tabs open on their computer, a kaleidoscope of images sorted out on their desk, and a variety of questions that have been jotted down on a notepad. They have a diverse array of interests and crave the freedom to follow those impulses down whatever path they choose. Thus, studying for an INFP is less about a linear path with one result (a research paper, a perfect score on a test) but more about the journey itself and where it leads. Ultimately, they do want to get the end result, but they may follow many creative paths or areas of interest, only to sprint to a finish at the very last minute to get the project done on time.
Many INFPs have to find an angle from which to study a subject and make it personally significant. This is especially true if the material seems impersonal or unimportant. For example, if they’re struggling with math, they may come up with a mental imaginative fantasy where they’re trapped on a deserted island and for every question they get right, one of their friends gets to be rescued.
What INFPs Need In Order to Learn Best:
- A sense of inspiration and possibility
- An understanding of how the subject matter aligns with their values
- The freedom to read between the lines
- Creative projects and assignments
- A harmonious classroom setting (if in the classroom)
- A sense of the big picture
- The freedom to follow their curiosity
- Collaborative opportunities, if working with others
- A sense that their instructor supports them as an individual
- Appreciation from instructors
- A sense of “Why” they should learn something
- The ability to move quickly through information
- Novel, original ideas and questions
- Freedom to choose and direct their own work
- The ability to tackle new skills
- Advance notice of assignments or expectations
- Time for quiet reflection
- Time to turn inward and think before responding to questions
- A sense of privacy and respect when showing their work
- The freedom to follow their curiosity
- The ability to work in bursts, rather than having to start and finish one project in a long, methodical trail.
- Finishing homework or studying in new and varied locations
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What Helps You Learn Best?
Are you an INFP with some tips or techniques for other INFPs? Leave a comment to help others in their journey!
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Whether you’re trying to identify your strengths, enjoy a better relationship with your partner, or experience less stress, knowledge of personality type is a powerful tool for self-understanding and connection with others. MBTI® certified practitioner and Psychology Junkie founder Susan Storm has spent over a decade coaching individuals and writing about personality type. She can give you insight into how your mind works, how to harness your natural gifts, and how to have more effective relationships with the diverse people in your life.
Want to take the first step to a fuller understanding of yourself and the people you love? Discovering You: Unlocking the Power of Personality Type provides in-depth, empowering, and applicable knowledge about how your mind works (as well as all 16 types in the Myers-Briggs® system).