Looking back at the knowledge we’ve gained over the course of our lives, most of us can point to at least one great teacher who helped us achieve something we never thought we could, revealed an exciting new way of seeing the world, or inspired a passion that continues to affect our lives. These teachers weren’t always in the classroom – they could have been coaches, family members, or work supervisors.
But what made these teachers great? Was it the knowledge they carried? Their ability to communicate with others? The love they had for their students? Their ability to inspire? The organization and clarity of their lessons?
We asked our community to weigh in on their own teaching ability by agreeing or disagreeing with the statement, “You have been called an excellent teacher,” and their answers may give us some insights into these questions.
Being Extraverted was the most influential factor in this study – 80% of Extraverted personalities agreed with the statement, compared to just 64% of Introverts. Being Assertive was nearly as predictive, with 78% of Assertive types agreeing, compared to 68% of Turbulent personality types.
Let’s take a closer look at these results.
Diplomats and Sentinels (75% and 74% agreeing)
Although the Strategies revealed greater differences in our community’s responses, when it came to Roles, two personality traits stood out: the Feeling and Judging traits. This suggests that forming strong relationships with students (a strength among Diplomats) and a certain respect for structure and discipline (a hallmark of Sentinels) may be the keys to being an excellent teacher.
In a 2008 article for the New Yorker examining the best methods to identify good teachers, bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell found that measures of teachers’ knowledge, such as test scores, graduate degrees, and certifications, are not useful in predicting their success in the classroom. Instead, Gladwell suggests that the best teachers are socially adept, empathetic communicators, able to monitor and manage group behavior so their classrooms are energetic but not chaotic, and able to offer direct, personal feedback to multiple students in a short time.
If any personality type seems likely to have this skill set, it would be Protagonists (ENFJ) (85%), the type most likely to say they have been called an excellent teacher. In addition to being highly attuned to other people’s feelings and needs and to group dynamics, Protagonists are strong communicators, reliable, tolerant, and dedicated to helping and inspiring others. In other words, they are ideal teachers.
Consuls (ESFJ) (81%) were also highly likely to say that they have been called excellent teachers. As one of Sentinel personality types, Consuls may be somewhat stronger than Protagonists when it comes to areas like organization, structure, and rules. But their Feeling trait keeps them from being too strict or rigid, and these personalities are highly capable of forming bonds with their students and maintaining a positive, fun classroom atmosphere.
Analysts also rated their teaching ability highly, but they may find it more difficult to connect with students because of their Thinking trait. Analyst personality types place high value on intellectualism and generally love any opportunity to share their wisdom, but they also tend to get impatient with those who don’t catch on to new concepts quickly. An aversion to routine work and mundane details means that Analysts may do better in informal teaching, mentoring, or consulting roles than they would in a traditional classroom.
Commanders (ENTJ) (84%) rated themselves almost as highly as Protagonists did. Commanders’ students won’t be coddled, but they will be inspired to pursue big questions and pushed to go beyond their limits in the quest for excellence. This can be empowering for students who rise to the challenge, but it can leave others feeling inadequate and exposed. It may be that a high number of Commander personalities have been called great teachers because of their ability to engage and inspire a like-minded few, rather than to offer a more inclusive, constructive environment to a larger number of people.
Explorer personality types were notably less likely to have been called excellent educators than types in other Roles. This suggests that even if a person has knowledge and empathy, great teaching also requires strong organizational skills and willingness to make a long-term commitment – two things that Explorers can struggle with because of their Prospecting trait.
Virtuosos (ISTP) (53%) were the least likely of all personality types to say that they have been called an excellent teacher. Virtuosos are unlikely to project the aura of patience, authority, and calm that we tend to associate with great teachers, although their energy and enthusiasm can create a dynamic learning experience. A Virtuoso would likely thrive teaching short-term, hands-on workshops but would probably feel stifled in a long-term teaching career.
People Mastery (82% agreeing)
Extraversion and Assertiveness were the two personality traits most highly correlated with being seen as an excellent teacher, so it’s no surprise that People Masters feel right at home in classrooms, practice halls, and playing fields.
As previously mentioned, the ability to connect with students is critical to successful teaching, and People Masters, as Extraverts, are all about relationship building. Their Assertive Identity makes these personalities relatively even-tempered – helpful for maintaining a stable classroom environment – and unafraid of putting themselves out there or even being a bit goofy for the sake of helping others learn.
Social Engagement (77%)
The best teachers make their job look easy, but as any first-timer can tell you, it takes a lot of confidence to step in front of a group of people and not only keep them engaged, but also impart knowledge or skills they will remember long after the lesson is over. Despite being Extraverted personality types, some Social Engagers may lack this natural confidence, due to their Turbulent Identity. But their hard work and obvious passion mean they can still be excellent teachers.
Confident Individualism (70%)
Confident Individualists, as Introverts, may not feel as comfortable in a traditional teaching role that requires daily interaction with dozens of people. But as Assertive personality types, they know where their strengths lie and they have their material down cold. Confident Individualists are usually most interested in doing their own thing, so they’re likely to excel in positions where they can have the freedom to focus on their deepest interests with students or colleagues who are invested in learning.
Constant Improvement (62%)
As Introverted, Turbulent personality types, Constant Improvers are susceptible to feeling exhausted by social interaction and to wavering self-esteem. Teaching may not come naturally to them, but their students will benefit from their willingness to devote whatever time and effort it takes to improve their teaching skills and to help their students achieve success.
Teaching is an extraordinarily challenging profession, and few of us are born with all the natural gifts it takes to be a great educator. The good news is that most of us seem capable of rising to the challenge under the right circumstances: overall, 71% of respondents said they have been called an excellent teacher.
Clearly, social and organizational skills, empathy, and confidence all play a role in being an excellent teacher. But is one personality aspect really more important than any other? Let us know what you think in the comments below!