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August 13, 2010

Teaching public value to all types of learners

Last week I spoke at a workshop for grantees of the North Central Risk Management Education Center (NCRMEC). At the workshop, Karl Duley of University of Wisconsin Extension gave a presentation on meeting the needs of learners with different personality types, using the Myers-Briggs taxonomy. I wondered how well the "Building Extension's Public Value" (BEPV) curriculum can be adapted for different kinds of learners. ncrme.bmp Below are a few of my own observations about how well the BEPV workshop--as I teach it--matches some of the learning preferences Karl described.


  • Extroverts (E-types) prefer thinking out loud, working with other people, and group activities. The BEPV curriculum includes many small group activities, so I think we may do a good job of reaching E-types.

  • Introverts (I-types) prefer quiet reflection and keeping their thoughts to themselves until they are comfortable. Karl demonstrated teaching to this preference by having us write down our answers to some of his questions, only sharing them later in the small group. In the BEPV workshop, when I introduce the different criteria for public sector action, I ask participants to think about the ways those criteria apply to their own programs. I can easily augment this by, after explaining each criterion, asking participants to write down the ways their program satisfies the criterion. This would give I-types a chance to reflect before speaking up, and would give everyone a list of ideas to refer to during the small group exercise.

  • Sensing learners (S-types) prefer a practical approach to new material, providing skills and facts they can currently use. I think the worksheets, exercises, and examples in the BEPV workbook should serve this kind of learner well.

  • Intuitive learners (N-types) prefer seeing the big picture before details. Spending adequate time on the introductory BEPV material (the workshop learning objectives, what is public value?, what is the purpose of the public value approach?) and periodic reminders of that material throughout the workshop can help I-type learners to keep track of the big picture.

  • Thinking learners (T-types) focus on objective truths, free from emotional distractions. Basing the public value approach on the (somewhat clinical) principles of public economics should be satisfying to these learners.

  • Feeling learners (F-types) feel comfortable taking into account people's motives and personal values. One key objective of the BEPV workshop is to help learners see the value of their own program from the perspective of someone who is not a participant in that program. I ask them to "put themselves in the shoes of" that non-participant stakeholder and imagine what matters to that person. This exercise should be a cinch for the F-types!

  • Judging learners (J-types) want clear structure in the learning situation from the beginning. The BEPV workshop is carefully organized into modules, each with learning objectives and exercises. I think J-types will feel comfortable the degree of organization in the curriculum.

  • Perceiving learners (P-types) prefer open exploration with limited structure. Hmm. Being a clear J-type myself, I may have designed a curriculum that doesn't serve this type of learner very well. I need to think of ways to insert--into a highly structured workshop!--some unstructured time to allow for a more creative flow of ideas.


Have you ever tried to modify a curriculum to meet different learning styles? Did you use the Myers-Briggs taxonomy, or do you find a different approach more useful? Do you have suggestions for how to make the BEPV curriculum more learner-friendly?