Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Got the perfect personality style for teaching pronunciation? Probably!

Have often heard it said (and even remarked, myself) that some people are just natural pronunciation teachers and others are not. There was a time when that might have been true or have actually made a more significant difference in the classroom. It should not be today, for a number of reasons.

One of the "problems" with referring to, or overgeneralizing about, personality in such contexts is that the so-called "classic 5 personality traits" (neuroticism, extraversion, openess, agreeableness and conscientiousness) have long since been supplanted or greatly elaborated by a myriad of more complex and individualized theories, models--and products. In other words, unless you are paying somebody to tell you about yourself, you, as an individual really have no chance of genuine or useful insight.

New study by Gerlach, Farb, Revelle and Amaral, reported by ScienceDaily.com, A robust data-driven approach identifies four personality types across four large data sets. offers a different, and I think very useful, perspective. Taking those 5 classic traits and applying a number of statistical "clustering" procedures, they discovered what appear to be four basic personality clusters derived from the relationship between each of the 5 for that type of individual. Here they are. (The teaching-oriented commentary in the boxes is my rough--but accurate--interpretation of their findings.) Find yourself there?

Classic Personality Traits

New (Pronunciation teaching) Personality Clusters/Types



and Conscientiousness

1. Average (Most of us!)

Good teacher,  maybe great

Outgoing, relatively emotional; responsive, relates well, (more likely to be female)



2. Reserved

Librarian-ish/ Ed tech-ish?

Emotionally stable but may be a bit boring, reliable; (more likely to be male.)




3. Role model

 Team leader, developer, owner?

Dependable, in-charge, take-charge type. (More likely to be women than men . . .)

4. Self-centered 

Show off, new MA?

Very high in extra-version; not always fun to be w/ but can sing (cluster style often decreases w/age and experience.)




So, which of those styles probably DON'T fit pronunciation teaching as well? Which are you?

My perspective would be that
  • Styles 2 and 3 certainly have valuable niches in our schools. 
  • Style 4 is always a wild card and can wind up most anyplace. In the past many of them, trained in drama and the arts, wound up in the pronunciation class. Their unique styles and personas are often a great mix and very successfully conducted, but their methodologies and techniques are often well beyond the reach of the "average" rest of us. 
  • Style 1 with perhaps a little more "Openness" looks almost ideal--which is most teachers anyway. More importantly, that "cluster" of skills and dispositions is much easier to enhance, as opposed to attempting to "fix" the other 3 styles. 
And what is it that makes Style 1 pretty much ideal today? Ability to comfortably engage in class, work from a consistent empathetic perspective and be relatively animated and "cheerleader-ish", at times. That general skill set is especially important in providing spontaneous feedback on speaking, including the ability to model.

Just did a quick look at the teacher trainees in our program who will be taking applied phonology with me in the spring: about 80% Style 1; 10% Style 2; 5% Style 3; 5% Style 4! (May have them take some kind of inventory questionnaire that provides similar cluster data.) Haptic pronunciation training is very much a Style 1 method--with some required, additional conscientiousness drilled in. Our experience has been that about 5% do find the training very demanding, at best. Will report back in April if our hypothesis was correct!


Clip Art credit: Clker.com

Northwestern University. (2018, September 17). Scientists determine four personality types based on new data: Comprehensive data analysis dispels established paradigms in psychology. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 24, 2018 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/09/180917111612.htm

1 comment:

  1. This had me in stitches, cracked me right up! Of course, I work with seven personality types, but you know that already. This is a good base line to generalize about outward teacher behaviour though.