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Vernellia R. Randall

Vernellia R. Randall, The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, First Year Law Students and Performance, 26 Cumberland Law Review 63 (1995-1996) (180 Footnotes Omitted).

 

In 1966, I graduated from a segregated high school after having attended a two room elementary school. I graduated third in my class. I performed well enough on the SAT's to receive a national merit commendation for minority students. Nevertheless, my scores fell below the admissions standards for many of the schools to which I applied.

It was a long time before I again achieved the same level of academic success that I had in high school. In college, my English teachers all told me I could not write -- and I believed them. In fact, I spent most of my adult life avoiding writing. If anyone had told me that what lawyers do is write, I would have never gone to law school.

While majoring in nursing, I was counseled several times to consider another career. In fact, I failed medical-surgical nursing twice. Had it not been for a nursing educator who decided to teach me how to study, I likely would have never graduated. Eventually, I did graduate from the University of Texas with a 2.3 grade point average (GPA).

In 1978, I decided to attend graduate school. However, two small things stood in my way: my low undergraduate GPA and my low Graduate Record Exam (GRE) score. When I could not get admitted to the University of Washington, I made a special trip to meet with the Dean and asked her whether having me -- with my low grades and GPA -- was worse than continuing to have a community health program with no black students. She apparently decided that I was worth the risk. I did not disappoint her faith in me because, even though I was placed on academic probation the first semester, I eventually graduated.

For some reason, I kept going back to school. In 1981, I decided to attend a graduate program in public health and it was there that I experienced my greatest academic success as an adult learner. Not only did I avoid probation entirely, I actually completed the course work with a 3.8 GPA. I believe that success was due in part to fifteen years of practice and maturity. However, I also performed well because the MPH program was primarily an independent program, which allowed me to approach my educational experience through my unique learning style. It was my success in the MPH program that provided me with the confidence to do law school.


INTRODUCTION

It is often said that many individuals, having been high achievers before entering law school, are surprised and dismayed when they receive Cs in law school. That was neither my experience nor my expectation. I fully expected to graduate in the bottom half of my class. I expected to work extraordinarily hard. Yet, I also had confidence that I could accomplish my goal of avoiding probation and possibly dismissal. My experiences taught me that it was not only what you knew that was important to succeeding in most educational environments, but understanding that a pedagogical and political nature is essential. I also learned that the ability to express what you knew in a manner acceptable to the instructor was important.

Entering law school with these goals, I was both surprised at my success and dismayed at the general incompetency of the legal education system. Law school became a source of inspiration and frustration. I was inspired because my prior years of experience and skill building helped to make me successful. I was frustrated because of the confusing, humiliating, and demoralizing effect that traditional legal pedagogy had on students.

Although I enjoyed my success, I was disheartened by the implied notion embodied in traditional legal pedagogy. Namely, that only those individuals who have an extremely high level of the requisite skills upon entering law school can succeed in law school and will become good lawyers. Legal education's failure to teach skills to varying levels of entering abilities displayed this attitude. Traditional legal pedagogy fails to clearly identify for students what a student needs to know and be able to do to succeed in law school. Moreover, traditional legal pedagogy fails to teach clearly and precisely the thinking skills embodied in the phrase thinking like a lawyer. Traditional legal pedagogy fails to provide adequate opportunities for students to learn or improve their skills through practice and critique.

Thus, success in law school is dependent not only upon the quality of the educational system and the efforts of the students, but also upon students entering with sufficiently high levels of the requisite skills so that the legal educational system's failures minimally affect their success. Many students who fail in law school do so because legal education, through its failure, does not attempt to educate as much as it attempts to weed out students and to rank the students who remain. Thus, the problem of an educationally unsound legal pedagogy leads many students to failure (or poor performance) where failure (or poor performance) may have been avoidable.

Intuitively, if not consciously, recognition of this dilemma causes many first year law students to become overwhelmed by a fear of failure. The initial fear intensifies as the semester progresses until some students become paralyzed by failure anxiety. Failure anxiety is the condition represented by the following statement: I am so concerned about failing my examination that I am unable to study. The causes of failure anxiety can be traced to four factors: (1) high expectations, (2) the method of law school instruction, (3) the subject matter and method of study, and (4) the importance of first semester grades.

First, many students who enter law schools have done well academically in the past and have high expectations of how they will do in law school. When such students perceive themselves as being in the middle of the class, because they received only Cs, they consider themselves failures.

Second, the student must adjust to a method of instruction that provides very little feedback or opportunity to practice developing skills. The so-called Socratic method results in many law professors making few evaluative comments about a student's classroom performance. Thus, typical first year classes provide little, if any, opportunity for feedback of written analytical skills such as issue-spotting, analysis, and writing. As a result, many law students enter their exams not having had any feedback on the skills needed to do well. In fact, most students will go through the entire semester not knowing how effective their method of study was and having even less information on how to improve their method of study.

Third, most first-year law students do not know how to study successfully. In part, this is due to the significant change in teaching methods and expectations between college and law school -- a change that is more significant than the one between high school and college.

The first semester in law school is like the first semester in college. You don't know what the hell you are doing, with the exception that you don't have any interim exams [in law school] to help you out. I suppose I betray something when I say I don't know how much I should study. I don't know how much we have to know, in what depth we have to go, what analysis we'll have to do, and how much of an acquaintance we have to have with certain points.

Finally, while one bad semester does not drastically influence an undergraduate's entire educational career, it can in law school. For instance, students who get poor first semester grades may not be able to recover sufficiently to be chosen for law review, moot court, judicial clerkships or prestigious summer job interviews. Given the lack of evaluative feedback, a student's generally poor study habits, and grading curves, it is a rare student who can offset a poor first semester.

Nevertheless, student anxiety can be lessened with improved legal instruction and with a legal pedagogy that is consistent with the principles of learning. Such a pedagogy includes understanding how students learn and helping students to develop strategies for learning that are consistent with their learning styles.

Legal education prides itself in being an educational system that demands that its students be self-motivated learners. The student with poor study skills will not perform well. The student who has a poor understanding of how to achieve academic success will not do well. Yet, law schools do very little to assure that their students understand what it means to be a self-motivated learner or to possess the necessary study skills. I am convinced that this failure is because legal education actually knows very little about self-motivated learning or learning styles. There have been only a few articles written in the last ten years on how law students learn or learning style theory in legal education. The only study published on law students' learning styles utilizing the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is almost thirty years old. As far as I can determine, no legal article has discussed improving students' performance by incorporating an understanding of the different learning styles of students into the development of teaching methods. Furthermore, despite changing demographics that have resulted in a more diverse student population, only one article addresses differences in learning styles of law students in the context of the issue of diversity. Because performance in law school is so important, this lack of self-study is a major deficiency.

This study was done to explore the relationship between learning style and performance. In particular, its purpose was to discern the MBTI for first year law students and to describe the relationship between the MBTI and performance.

A. Learning Style

Some researchers believe that learning is the most important concept to demand attention in education in many years . . . , others have called it the foundation of a truly modern education. The phrase learning style first came into use when researchers began to search for specific strategies for matching course presentation and materials to students' needs.

Learning style is a student's way of responding to, and using, stimuli in the context of learning. It refers to a person's characteristic style of acquiring and using information in learning and solving problems. Using the layers of an onion as a metaphor for the different levels of a person's learning style, the core of a learning style is a person's basic characteristics of personality. Personality models of learning styles deal with the basic characteristics that a person brings to the learning situation. Personality characteristics are the most stable and the least subject to change in response to intervention by a researcher or instructor. Personality models include: (1) field dependence and independence; (2) Myers-Briggs Type Indicator; (3) reflectivity versus impulsivity models; (4) Omnibus Personality Inventory; and (5) The Holland Typology of Personality.

The second layer of the learning style onion is the person's information processing style. Information processing models of learning styles deals with how people take in and process information. Information processing models include: (1) comprehensive learners versus operation learners; (2) conceptual versus factual learner (sequencing of information) models; (3) deep-elaborative versus shallow-reiterative models; (4) Kolb's Model of Experiential Learning; and the (5) Gregorc model.

The third layer of the learning style onion is the person's social interaction styles. Students learn better in settings that meet their social-emotional needs and in social situations that are attuned to their predominant pattern of behavior. Social-interaction models of learning styles include: (1) Mann's Research based on personality clusters; (2) Grasha-Reichman Student Learning Style Scales; (3) Furmann-Jacobs model; and (4) Eison's Learning and Grade orientation.

The final layer of the learning style onion is the person's instructional preference and learning environment. Instructional style models are concerned with students preferences for particular teaching methods. Instructional style models of learning style include: (1) cognitive mapping; and (2) Canfield Learning Style Inventory.

The traits identified by the different learning style measures are not discrete and each level influences the other. Nevertheless, information from learning styles can help faculty become more sensitive to the diversity among students. In particular, this information can help faculty to design a broad range of learning experiences to meet the needs of the varied learning styles of students. Perhaps most importantly, in a self-directed learning situation, learning style information can help a student to become a better student. The more students know about their own styles, the better they can study and thus also increase their chances of succeeding. Learning style information gives students a greater appreciation of their strengths and helps them become more deliberate in their learning. Once law professors and law students understand the student's learning style, they can work together to help the student develop strategies for learning in styles different from their own.

This study used the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) primarily because it is a personality model that is less susceptible to changes in the legal education environment. The MBTI has been widely used in over 100 research studies. Researchers have found that, while it is not comprehensive, this model has many strengths that other instruments do not possess. For instance, the MBTI is better normed than most learning style instruments. Furthermore, the MBTI is more sophisticated and complex in that it identifies more approaches to learning.

B. Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

The MBTI is a validated, reliable inventory that assesses a person's personality type. The MBTI makes the theories of Carl Jung more accessible to people. Jung believed that what seemed to be random behavior is actually predictable based on the differences in how individuals use their perception and judgment. Questions on the MBTI are designed to classify individuals according to four basic preferences: (1) extraversion versus introversion; (2) sensing versus intuitive; (3) thinking versus feeling; and (4) judgment versus perception.

Extraversion (E) versus introversion (I) are two opposite preferences used to describe a person's orientation of energy -- where a person likes to focus his or her attention. Sensing (S) versus intuitive (N) are opposite preferences that describe the perceiving function -- the way in which people prefer to acquire information. They deal with how a person goes about finding out about the world around them. Thinking (T) and feeling (F) are the judging function. These opposite preferences reflect the different means that individuals use to reach conclusions, make decisions, form opinions, and arrive at judgments. Judgment (J) and perception (P) describe a person's orientation to outer life -- the way a person deals with the outer world. Each of the four preference types represent a habitual choice between rival alternatives. A person's preferences affect not only what they perceive, but how they draw conclusions about what they perceive.

There are several uses of learning styles as determined by the MBTI. For instance, the MBTI has been used to predict and develop the different teaching methods and environments best suited to each type. The MBTI can be used to predict the preferred patterns of mental functioning, such as information processing, idea development, and judgment formation. The MBTI can be used to foretell patterns of attitudes and interests that influence an individual's learning situation and to predict a person's disposition to pursue certain learning circumstances and avoid others. In addition, the MBTI can be used to predict a person's nature to use certain learning tools and to avoid others. While the MBTI has been used to predict academic performance, it cannot effectively foretell a student's actual study behavior. Consequently, it cannot be used effectively as either an admission tool or an ultimate tool for predicting the success of particular students.

C. Data Collection

At orientation, all members of the entering first year class of law students were asked to participate. They were asked to complete the MBTI Form G, which has ninety-two self-scoreable items. Each item offers a forced choice between two opposing answers that equate to one of the four opposing preferences. The choices are between every day events and word pairs selected to evoke a choice between the competing preferences. A person's type is based on which pole of the four preferences the person prefers, with the four preferences combining to render sixteen possible types.

The items are weighted 0-2, and scores are given for each pole based on the points totaled from the responses. The result allows a person to determine not only which pole is preferred, but by how much. The level of a person's preference can be slight (1-9), moderate (11-19), clear (21-39), or very clear (41 or higher). For example, a person might score 43 on extravert items and 20 on introvert items. His score would be E 23. The E indicates that he has a preference for extraversion, and the 23 indicates that his preference is clear.

D. Data Interpretation

Throughout this paper, I compare different groups, such as: males v. females, white students v. students of color, and extraverts v. introverts. When comparing groups, the question arises whether the groups really represent populations that are different from each other. It is possible, some may say even probable, that different groups given the same treatment (i.e., extraverted law students versus introverted law students) could make different grades merely by chance. That is, any observed difference could result merely from sampling error. Thus, as a researcher, I wanted to test the null hypothesis that the groups being compared are really only two samples from the same population and any observed difference is due to chance or sampling error. In short, the null hypothesis establishes that the real difference between groups being compared is zero.

So the question becomes: How large does an observed difference have to be before a researcher is justified in rejecting the null hypothesis? I used Tests of Statistical Significance to answer those questions. Significance is designated with the symbol p. Most social scientists treat results with a statistical significance of .05 or less as significant, or meaningful, and treat a statistical significance of .01 as very significant. A statistical significance of .05 means that only five times out of a hundred will the observed result come from chance or some random process. A statistical significance of .01 means that only one time out of a hundred will the observed result come from chance. Consequently, lower significance levels indicate a higher probability of real or reliable results.

While conventional research reports significance at three levels (<.05 or <. 01 or <.001), I reported the actual probability. I did so, in part because I believe conventional significance levels may be too conservative in interpreting the practical significance of differences in grade point averages. While results greater than .05 are not as statistically reliable as results meeting the .05 test, they do indicate possible non-random differences in the population. Such differences would be extremely important in a population where even very small differences in grades can result in substantial differences in treatment in the job market, in selection to law review, and most importantly, in being placed on probation or being dismissed.

E. Description of Students

Initially, all 170 students in the entering class completed the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. However, the study was limited to the 154 students who had first semester grade point averages (FSGPA). The students were overwhelmingly white, male and young. The average undergraduate grade point average (UGPA) for the entering students was 3.069. The students' mean law school admission test (LSAT) score was 155.040.


I. MBTI AND FIRST SEMESTER GRADES

A. Extraversion (E)-Introversion (I) Preference

Extraversion (E) and introversion (I) are used to describe where a student focuses his or her attention in the learning process. Extraverts tend to focus their perception and judgment on people and objects; they are energized by what is going on in the outer world rather than the inner world of their mind. Extraverts usually prefer to communicate more by talking than by writing and to learn by experiencing. Thus, extraverts prefer to learn through acting rather than reflecting. Introverts become aroused to action by what goes on in their own mind. Introverts tend to focus their attention on concepts and ideas and are more comfortable when they are expected to spend most of their time just thinking. In fact, introverts prefer to reflect before acting.

In the Myers & McCaulley study, seventy-nine students (51.3%) were extraverts and the remaining seventy-five students (48.7%) were introverts. A larger percentage of female students (57.8%) than male students (46.7%) preferred extraversion over introversion. However, the difference was not statistically significant (p=.173). A larger percentage of students of color (52.9%) than whites (51.1%) preferred extraversion. However, the difference was not statistically significant (p=.886).

Students preferring extraversion had a lower mean first semester grade point average (2.499) than students preferring introversion (2.610). The difference was not statistically significant -- it was highly correlated (p=. 1504). Furthermore, even though there was not a significant correlation between first semester grades and dichotomous type (EI), the law students' EI continuous scores increased as their first semester grades increased and the correlation was statistically significant ( p=.020). That is, the more the student preferred introversion, the better the student performed. This result was true for all groups except males -- females (p=. 001), whites (p=.040) and students of color (p=.038).

It is no wonder that students preferring extraversion had a lower mean FSGPA than students preferring introversion. Legal education rewards the preferred learning style of introverts, although you might be misled if you sat in on a typical socratic classroom. Extraverted law students think best when talking, learn well in groups, and may have difficulty sitting in front of a book for a long period of time. Because of the legal education's reliance on socratic discussion in the classroom, extraverted law students are usually able to concentrate well and tend to leap into discussion readily. In fact, extraverted law students are likely to begin answering the questions immediately, thinking of what they want to say as they speak.

Introverted law students, on the other hand, need some time to think before they are required to answer. If introverted law students have not anticipated questions before hand, they may perform poorly during socratic dialogue. Furthermore, because introverts do not always share what they know, teachers may be slow to appreciate their talents and depth of knowledge. Typical socratic dialogue may cause some law professors to press introverted law students into participating. However, such pressure will often only increase the introverted law student's withdrawal. Law professors should respect introverted law students' need to think before talking by either giving them advanced notice of being called on, advance notice of the questions, or a brief twenty to thirty seconds to think before answering. If professors use one of these routes, introverted students will participate more effectively without increasing their withdrawal. However, professors should encourage introverted law students to participate in class and group activities that help to develop the extraverted side of their personalities.

Nevertheless, despite the socratic dialogic behavior emphasis in the classroom, most of the learning in law school occurs outside the classroom in solidarity reflection and involves a high degree of reading and verbal reasoning. Consequently, introverted law students are able to study more effectively, since introversion is correlated with reading and verbal reasoning. Further, much of law study involves thinking alone, something introverts do well. Furthermore, since introverts tend to prefer writing over talking, they often do better on written tests on concepts than oral tests on practical application. Consequently, it is not unexpected that introverted law students will have a relative advantage on most law school exams that are more concerned with the students' understanding of concepts. They will also have a relative advantage in obtaining favorable grades since few law professors factor in class participation as a component of the course grade.

On the other hand, solidarity reflection can be counterproductive for extraverted law students who prefer to think while acting (or even after acting). Extraverted law students need to be encouraged to make the process of the legal learning environment more active. They need to be encouraged to fill their learning situation with talking and discussion, activity and group work. They can use group discussions, cooperative projects and study groups to more thoroughly understand legal theories. However, they also need to be encouraged to identify experiences where they learn to study effectively alone.

Furthermore, extraverted law students will learn theories or facts better if they connect the theories or facts with their own experience. However, because extraverted law students tend to leap into reading assignments with little forethought, even in the classroom discussion, they need to be encouraged to take time to anticipate issues and problems.

Extraverted law students generally perform better on oral than on written tests. Consequently, they should be encouraged to practice writing exams and hypotheticals. Law students often rely on their ability to learn facts. Because many law school exams test a law student's understanding of concepts and analysis -- this reliance is misplaced. This may be a particular problem for extraverted law students who actually learn facts better than concepts and ideas. Consequently, extraverted law students need to be repeatedly encouraged not to rely on their understanding of facts but to undertake activities that will stress their learning of concepts and analysis.

Finally, extraverted law students should be encouraged to take clinical programs since they particularly benefit from programs where practical experience goes hand-in-hand with concepts and theories.

Summary of How the E and I Preferences affect LearningFN  
Extraversion

Introversion

 

Cognitive Style: The extroverted law student favors a

Cognitive Style: The introverted law student favors a

 

cognitive style that involves:cognitive style that involves:  
-Learning by talking and physically engaging the

-quit reflection,

 

environment.

-keeping one's thought inside until they arepolished.

 

-Letting attention flow outward toward objective  
Talking to help thoughts to form and become clear,

-being engrossed in inner events: ideas, impressions,

 

and

concepts, and

 

-Learning through interactions, verbal and verbal and non-verbal.

-learning in private, individual ways.

 

Study Style: The extroverted law student favors a

Study Style: The introverted law student favors a

 

study style that involves:

study style that involves:

 

-acting first and reflecting after,

-reflecting first, acting after (if necessary).

 

-plunging into new material.

-loocing for new data to fit into the internal dialogue that is always going on.

 

-starting interactions needed to stimulate reflection and

that is always going on,

 

-having a strong, interesting, external-extroverted reason

someone who is trusted.

 

for studying beyond learning for its own sake,

-reading as the main way of studying.

 

-avoiding distractions that will cut into their

-listening to others talk about the topic being studied,

 

concentration.

and privately processing what they take in, and

 

-studying to prepare to teach someone.  
Instruction that fits E's: Extroverted law students

Instruction that fits I's: Introverted law students

 

do their best work when:

do their vest work when:

 

-opportunities to think out loud for example, one-to

-working internally with their own thoughts: listening,

 

one with the teacher, classroom discussions, working

observing, lab work, reading, writing.

 

with another student on projects.

-processing their experiences at their own pace.

 

-learning activities that have an effect outside the

-presenting the results of their work in forms that let

 

learner, such as visible results from a project.

them keep their privacy,

 

-teachers who manage classroom dialogue so that

-having ample time to polish their work before needing

 

extroverts have ways to clarify their ideas before they

to present it.

 

add them to class discussion, and

to present it,

 

-assignments that let them see what other people are

-having time to reflect before answering the teacher's

 

doing and what they regard as important.

questions, and

 

 

-tieing their studies to their own personal interests;

 

 

their internal agenda.

 

TABULAR OR GRAPHIC MATERIAL SET FORTH AT THIS POINT IS NOT DISPLAYABLETABULAR OR GRAPHIC MATERIAL SET FORTH AT THIS POINT IS NOT DISPLAYABLE

B. Sensing (S)-Intuition (N) Preference

The sensing (S) and intuitive (N) preferences index reflects the way in which people prefer to acquire information. The index reflects how a person finds out about the world around them. A person relies either on sensing (S), which reports observable facts through one of the five senses, or on intuition (N), which reports meanings, relationships, and possibilities worked out in the subconscious.

Sensing types appreciate the realities of a situation -- accepting and working with what is given in the here-and-now. Sensing types tend to be realistic and practical. Sensing types are good at remembering and working with a large number of facts. Intuitive types, on the other hand, tend to look at the big picture and try to grasp the essential patterns. Intuitive types are imaginative and inspirational -- seeing new possibilities and new ways of doing things.

Seventy-four students (48.1%) preferred sensing and eighty students (51.9%) preferred intuition. A larger percentage of male law students (55.6%) than female law students (46.9%) preferred intuition over sensing. However, the difference was not statistically significant (p=.288). A larger percentage of students of color (52.9%) than whites (51.8%) preferred intuition over sensing. Similarly, the difference was not statistically significant (p=. 931).

Students preferring sensing had a lower mean FSGPA (2.532) than students preferring intuition (2.573). However, this difference was not statistically significant (p=.6010). While first semester grades increased (for every group except women) as SN continuous scores increased (as preference for intuition increased), the correlation was not statistically significant (p=.377).

Sensing law students learn best when they are given concrete examples that allow them to move to abstract theory in a step-by-step progression. Thus, sensing law students should be encouraged to work with programmed, modular, or computer-assisted activities. Law professors should provide sensing law students with knowledge that is practical. Furthermore, sensing law students will do better with clear directions that are concise, detailed, and precise. They are comfortable with, and interested in, situations where each part of the whole can be grasped. Sensing law students learn best when given a principle, or rule, followed by many examples of variations in applying it. They tend to enjoy practice and drill. Furthermore, because sensing law students are more exact in judging how long things take, they are more likely to work steadily at preparing for exams.

Sensing law students may have less of a natural aptitude for reading and writing. Consequently, because much of learning in law school relies on reading or writing, grades of sensing law students may underestimate their true grasp of a subject. In fact, sensing law students may be particularly disadvantaged because most first year law school exams are timed, written essays tests. However, sensing law students may actually be at an advantage in upper division, clinical based courses that rely on performance as a testing measure. Furthermore, they may also be at an advantage in courses that rely on objective tests.

Intuitive law students may be at an advantage because legal analysis requires a person to have insight and perception. Intuitive law students are likely to be able to leap to a conceptual understanding of material. However, while they are likely to have quick flashes of insight, they are often careless about details and facts. Nevertheless, intuitive law students tend to do well in law school because they excel at theoretical topics and abstract theories. Unlike sensing law students, intuitive law students get bored after they have seen what they consider the main point. This may make intuitive students inpatient in the classroom as sensing students struggle to understand. In fact, intuitive law students learn best when given a problem with the task of discovering the solution. While intuitive law students resist drill, they will pay attention to facts in order to verify the correct solution to a problem. However, intuitive law students often underestimate how long things will take and may finish tasks in a last-minute rush when a deadline makes them interesting or important. Furthermore, intuitive law students need to be challenged and kept interested. Because they are often so quick at insight, they often grasp the principle the teacher is presenting and daydream during the [class]. However, law faculty need to provide exercises and opportunities for intuitive law students to develop a healthy respect for facts. Because of the rapid movement of a law class and intuitive students' flashes of insight, the intuitive student will need to be challenged not to talk off-the-top-of-their-heads. Otherwise, intuitive law students are in danger of developing slipshod habits. They need to be challenged to find a basis for the inspirations and insights that come to them.

One way to help both intuitive law students and sensing law students may be to have collaborative exercises in which intuitive students are paired with sensing law students. Intuitive types might gain a healthy respect for the sensing type's solid grasp of reality, while sensing types might be pushed to use their imagination, inspirations, and insights.

Intuitive law students tend to do well on timed, written essay exams because of their intuitive perception and their facility with the written word. However, as far as performance is concerned, it seems to make little statistical difference whether students are sensing (mastering first the facts and details) or intuitive (mastering first the theories and concepts). This is probably because law school exams focus on both practical facts (preferred by sensing law students) and application (preferred by intuitive law students).

Summary of How the S and N Preferences Affect LearningFN
Sensing

Intuition

 

Cognitive Style: A sensing law student favors a cognitive style

Cognitive Style: An intuitive law student favors a cognitive

 

that involves:

style that involves:

 

-memory of facts.

-being caught up in inspiration.

 

-observing specifics.

-quickly seeing associations and meanings.

 

-processing data step by step,

-reading between the lines.

 

-starting with the concrete, then moving to abstract,

-relying on verbal fluency more than on memory of facts.

 

-being careful and thorough,

-relying on insight more than careful observation, and

 

-aiming toward soundness of understanding,

-focusing on general concepts more than details and practical

 

-staying connected to practical realities around them, and

matters.

 

-being attentive to what is, in the present moment.  
Study Style: A sensing law student favors a study style that

Study Style: A intuitive law student favors a study style that

 

involves

involves:

 

-a sequential, step by step approach to new material,

-following inspirations.

 

-beginning with familiar, sold facts.

-jumping into new material to pursue an intriguing concept.

 

-moving gradually toward abstract concepts and principles, and

-finding their own way through new material, hopping from

 

-approaching abstract principals and concepts by distilling them out#concept to concept.  
of their own personal, concrete experience.

-attending to details only after the big picture is clear,

 

 

-exploring new skills rather than honing present ones, and

 

 

-reading.

 

Instruction that fits S's: Sensing law students do their best

Instruction that fits N's: Intuitive law students do their best

 

work with:

work with:

 

-hands-on labs,

-learning assignments that put them on their own initiative,

 

-relevant films and other audiovisual presentations,

idnvidually or with a group.

 

-materials that can be ahndled.

-real choices in the ways they work out their assignments.

 

-computer assisted instruction.

-opportunities to find their own ways to solve problems,

 

-first-hand experience that gives practice in the skills and concepts

-opportunities to be inventive and original,

 

to be learned,

-opportunities for self-instruction, individually or with a group,

 

-teachers who provide concrete learning experiences first, in any

-a system of individual contracts between teacher and students,

 

-learning sequence, before using the textbook,

-beginnings that fire them with the fascination of new

 

-teachers who show them exactly what is expected of them,

possibilities, and

 

-teachers who do not move too quickly through material,

-experiences rich with complexities which may include

 

touching just the high spot or jumping from throught to thought,

stimulating lectures.

 

-assignments that do not expect them to generate possibilities not  
based on solid facts, and  
-skills and facts they can use in their present lives.  

FNa. Adapted from Gordon Lawrence. People Types and Tiger Stripes 44 (1992).

C. Thinking (T)-Feeling (F) Preference

The thinking (T) and feeling (F) preference index reflects the means that individuals use to reach conclusions, make decisions, form opinions, and arrive at judgments. Persons who prefer thinking decide impersonally on the basis of logical consequences. Individuals who prefer feeling rely on judgments that are based on personal and social values.

Persons who rely on thinking make decisions objectively -- making decisions on the basis of cause and effect. Individuals that prefer thinking make decisions by analyzing and weighing the evidence. They seek an objective standard of truth and are frequently good at analyzing what went wrong or why something does not work.

Persons who prefer to decide through feelings make decisions based on values or on what is important to them and to others. They do not require logical decisions, so long as the decisions are consistent with their values. While feeling persons tend to be sympathetic, appreciative, and tactful when dealing with people, their decisions are not based on emotions, but rather on values.

One hundred and twenty students (77.9%) preferred thinking and thirty-four students (22.1%) preferred feeling. A larger percentage of males (82.2%) than females (71.9%) preferred thinking over feeling. Even though the difference was not statistically significant (p=.1271), it is meaningful that although only one-third of all women are thinkers, nearly two-thirds of the women in law schools are thinkers. A larger percentage of students of color (94.1%) than whites (75.9%) preferred thinking over feeling, although the difference was not statistically significant (p=.088).

Students preferring thinking had a higher mean FSGPA (2.585) than those preferring feeling (2.440). While this association was highly correlated, it was not statistically significant (p=.1174). However, the students' TF continuous scores decreased as their first semester grades increased. That is, the more the student preferred thinking, the better the student performed (p=.003).

The thinking-feeling dimension provides insights into what motivates a person to learn. Thinking law students are most motivated to learn when they are provided with a logical rationale. Legal education seeks to help students to systematically understand the principles underlying the legal system. Thinking law students prefer topics that help them to understand systems or cause-and-effect relationships. Their thought is syllogistic and analytic. Consequently, if given a logical reason for doing boring, uninteresting tasks (i.e., outlining), they are less likely to complain about these tasks. One might predict that thinking students would perform better in law school since law school teaches to their level. However, thinking law students are likely to undervalue factors, such as the importance of human relationships in legal problems, the human side of legal issues, the role of values in legal decision-making, and the art of communication. Thinking law students need activities, like exposure to real clients, early in their legal education. That experience will help them develop their less preferred feeling. It is through these experiences that thinking law students can learn to appreciate the problems of people. Substantive law school courses need to develop mechanisms to constantly keep the thinking law students in touch with the role of values. Otherwise, it will be too easy for the thinking law student to objectify and dehumanize the entire process.

In contrast, feeling law students are likely to find little motivation in the structure of legal education. Feeling law students need to know that what they are about to learn can be put to work for people they are concerned about or in the service of personally held convictions and values. Feeling law students think to clarify their values and to establish networks of values. Consequently, even when their expressions seem syllogistic, they usually evolve from some personally held belief or value. Feeling law students need to be encouraged to keep that perspective. Without personal encouragement, feeling law students may find it difficult to be motivated, since they may find many law school activities boring and unrewarding. Feeling law students are more likely to understand legal material if it is presented from the human angle. Consequently, law faculty need to remember to interject into the discussion of cases the human aspect of the issue. This consists of something more than the cold discussion of facts, but rather of discussion of the underlying values motivating the parties. Feeling law students can master legal education and do well if they are in pursuit of a goal that has important personal value. Furthermore, because feeling law students are particularly motivated by approval, law faculty need to show appreciation for the work of feeling law students.

Feeling law students need to work on developing their preferred process of judgment as a reliable guide for legal decision making. They can do so by working on values clarification, developing concern for others, weighing long against short range good, and on determining what is more important and what is less important. Furthermore, feeling law students need activities that teach them to take into account the probable consequences of legal actions, especially where their own high value for the action makes it hard for them to see the probable negative outcomes.

Summary of How the T and F Preferences Affect LearningFN
Thinking

Feeling

 

Cognitive Style: Thinking law students favor a

Cognitive Style: feeling law students favor a

 

cognitive style that involves:

cognitive style that involves:

 

-making impersonal judgments,

-making value judgments concerning human motives

 

-keeping mental life ordered by logical principles,

and personal values,

 

-analyzing experiences to find logical principles

-attending to relationships,

 

underlying them,

-personalizing issues and causes they care about,

 

-avoiding emotional concerns while making decisions,

-staying tuned to the quality of the subjective tone of

 

and

relationships and seeking harmony in relationships,

 

-naturally critiquing things, aiming toward clarity and

-attending to the quality of their own emotional life,

 

precision.

and

 

 

-naturally appreciating people and their

 

 

accomplishments.

 

Study Style: Thinking law students favor a study style

Study Style: Feeling law students favor a study style

 

that includes:

that involves:

 

-having objective material to study,

-learning through personal relationships rather than

 

-compartmentalizing emotional issues to get clear

impersonal individualized activities,

 

thinking on the task at hand,

-learning by helping and responding to other peoples'

 

-analyzing problems to bring logical order out of

needs,

 

confusion, and

-studying with friends, and

 

-seeking to get a sense of mastery over the material.

-wanting to choose study topics that they care deeply

 

 

about.

 

Instruction that fits T's: Thinking law students do

Instruction that fits F's: Feeling law students do

 

their vest work with:

their best work with:

 

-teachers who are logically organized,

-teachers who value a personal rapport with students,

 

-subjects and materials that flow logically and respond to

-assignments that have a goal of helping people,

 

logic, and

-feedback that shows warm appreciation for the

 

-feedback that shows them their specific, objective

students and their efforts, and gives corrective

 

achievements.

suggestions in that context, and

 

 

-personalized assignments.

 

FNa. Adapted from Gordon Lawrence, People Types and Tiger Stripes 45 (1992).

D. Judgment (J)-Perception (P) Preference

The judgment (J) and perception (P) preference index describes the way an individual deals with the outer world. People preferring judgment prefer using thinking or feeling when dealing with the outer world. People preferring perception would rather use sensing or intuition for their dealings with the outer world.

Individuals preferring judgment (either thinking or feeling) tend to live in a planned, orderly way. They have a strong desire to want to regulate and control life. People who prefer judgment like to make decisions. They like to have things come to a closure and then move on to the next project. However, a preference for judgment does not mean that the person is judgmental, merely that he or she likes a structured and organized life where things are settled.

Persons preferring perception when dealing with the outer world like to live in a flexible and spontaneous way. They like to gather information and seek to understand rather than to control. Persons preferring perception tend to stay open to experiences, and enjoy and trust their ability to adapt.

One hundred and four students (67.5%) preferred judgment and fifty-four students (32.5%) preferred perception. A larger percentage of females (78.1%) than males (60.0%) preferred judgment over perception. The difference was statistically significant (p=.0179). A larger percentage of whites (67.9%) than students of color (64.7%) preferred judgment over perception. However, the difference was not statistically significant (p=. 7919).

Students preferring judgment had higher mean FSGPA (2.568) than students preferring perception (2.523). However, this difference was not statistically significant (p=.5903). The students' JP continuous scores decreased as their first semester grades increased. That is, the more the student preferred judgment, the better the student performed. However, the difference was not statistically significant (p=.112).

The judging-perception distinction is important in determining whether law students prefer structured learning environments or spontaneous learning environments. Law schools are highly structured environments. They require a student to make outlines, brief cases, read a certain number of pages, and write a certain number of papers. Judging law students prefer the kind of highly structured learning environment present in law schools. Judging law students take satisfaction in accomplishing the tasks of law schools and generally like law schools because of their system, order, defined tasks and structured assignments. Judging law students are more likely to have and follow a schedule. In fact, more than any other student, judging law students are likely to like the work of law schools. Judging law students learn more through fulfilling their duty than through curiosity and may sometimes encounter difficulty in their legal analyses because they have probably decided prematurely, on the basis of insufficient information, either that they are right or that there is nothing more to be done.

Law faculty need to provide judging law students with structure and organization, since they like to know what they are accountable for, and . . . be held to it. However, since many legal problems require spontaneity, [and] flexibility in the face of sudden changes, judging law students require exercises which get them to operate without structure. Law faculty need to help judging law students avoid fulfilling their need for closure when the problem really calls for a broader curiosity.

Since perceptive students prefer open and spontaneous learning environments, they may feel imprisoned in the highly structured environment of law school. Because perceptive law students like courses that are free-wheeling, flexible, and adapted to their interests as they arise, they are likely to find much of law school stagnant and boring. Perceptive law students need to be encouraged to organize and plan. They need to be encouraged not to procrastinate. Unlike judging law students, perceptive law students are likely to learn more through curiosity about the legal system than through duty to the studying process. In fact, even during examinations, perceptive law students are open to other possibilities even though their judging attitude might stand them in better stead. Perceptive law students need practice in recognizing when it is time to be open, curious and perceptive; and when it is time to stop looking and decide to act. Law faculty should be alert to occasions where seeking one more bit of information prevents a perceptive law student from making a legal connection that could have been made had the student been more decisive.

However, whether a law student prefers a structured learning environment seems to make no statistical difference in performance. That is, it made little statistical difference whether law students prefer a highly structured environment or an open and spontaneous environment.

Summary of How the J and P Preferences Affect LearningFN
Judgment

Perception

 

Cognitive Style: Judging law students favor a

Cognitive Style: The perceiving law students favor

 

cognitive style that involves:

a cognitive style that involves

 

-having a clear structure in a learning situation from the

-open exploration without a pre-planned structure,

 

beginning,

-staying open to new experiences,

 

-aiming toward completions and getting closure, and

-managing emerging problems with emerging

 

-having life organized into an orderly plan.

structures, and

 

 

-the stimulation of something new and different.

 

Study Style: Judging law students favor a study style

Study Style: The perceiving law student favors a

 

that involves:

study style that involves:

 

-planned and scheduled work drawing energy from the

-spontaneously following their curiosity,

 

steady, orderly process of doing their work,

-studying when the surges of impulsive energy come

 

-wanting to know exactly what they are accountable for

to them,

 

and by what standards they will be judged, and

-studying to discover something new to them, and

 

-treating assignments as serious business, and persisting

-finding novel ways to do routine assignments so as to

 

in doing them.

spark enough interest to do the assignments.

 

Instruction that fits J's: Judging law students do

Instruction that fits P's: Perception law students

 

their vest work with:

do their best work when:

 

-pre-planned structure, and a teacher who carefully

-they can pursue problems in their own way,

 

provides it,

-they have genuine choices in assignments, as with a

 

-predictability and cosnistency,

system of individual contracts in which the student can

 

-formalized instruction that moves in orderly sequences,

negotiate some of the activities,

 

-prescribed tasks, and

-assignments make sense to them, and

 

-milestones, completion points, with little ceremonies to

-their work feels like play.

 

honor successful completions.  

FNa. Adapted from Gordon Lawrence, People Types and Tiger Stripes 46 (1992).


II. IMPLICATIONS OF RESEARCH

The findings of this research provide some information for suggesting change in various aspects of legal education. The first implication is that it is urgent that law schools recognize, accept, and understand the diversity of students with regard to learning styles. Law schools and the legal profession are made up of diverse learners.

A second implication is the need for faculty to know and teach about learning style. By doing so, the faculty will help students to understand their own strengths and weaknesses. Such understanding will contribute to increased self-esteem and ultimately to achievement. It may also contribute to decreased feelings of frustration and cognitive dissonance among first year law students.

A third implication of the research is the need for faculty to use a variety of teaching techniques. The traditional pseudo-socratic teaching style fits the learning style of only some learners. More importantly, this style is misleading. Since it relies on thinking while acting, it may lead extraverts to believe that they are actually doing better than they really are. Extraverts need activities that will require them to engage in reflective thinking and to communicate that thinking in writing rather than orally. Furthermore, it is important that faculty develop teaching methods that address the full range of learning styles.

Since learning styles tend to guide teaching styles, counseling styles, and communication practices, a fourth implication is the need for law schools to hire faculty with diverse learning styles. Obviously, by having a faculty and support staff with diverse learning styles, law schools will provide students with a selection of instructors and other personnel from which to learn and seek advice.

A final implication is the urgent need for further research on learning style. There is a need for research on learning style throughout the law school experience and even into practice. There is a need for research on the different aspects of learning style and academic performance. For instance, what impact does learning style have on first year grades, upper division grades, and bar passage? Another important question that needs further research is how learning styles affect the performance of students of color and how it may have different implications for whites. Also, a study needs to be made of differences based on gender.


CONCLUSION

While all types may perform well in law school, it is predictable that (I), (N), (T), and (J) types may have a relative, if not significant, advantage. Introverts (I) deal intensively with concepts and ideas. Intuitives (N) work with abstraction, symbols, and theory. Thinkers (T) prefer logical analysis. Finally, judges (J) plan, focus, and organize their work. Consequently, the study of law matches the interests of those preferences. However, grades are much more than a matching of interest. They are the end product of the interaction between aptitude, application, interest, and persistence. While type theory and data can help explain achievement, it is not a full explanation. Consequently, it would be a mistake to use type theory for either admissions or to predict success of particular students. However, information on type can help professors in their choice of teaching methods and in the variety of study aids they choose to make available to their students. It can help students become better self-learners by helping them to plan their learning to maximize their abilities and interests.

If law schools are serious about conforming legal education to known educational theory, law schools must do more than to take a sink or swim attitude toward student success. Law schools must understand which factors contribute to student learning and which do not. While understanding learning styles is not a cure-all for the ills of legal education, it is a start toward helping the student become a better self-learner. Legal educators could use the MBTI to help students maximize the learning experience by: (1) helping them to understand how they learn best; (2) by helping them to understand how the learning environment differs from their preferred learning modes; and (3) by helping to determine activities and behaviors to maximize their learning, notwithstanding any learning style differences. Understanding learning styles can help legal educators understand the thought processes of law students who are quite different from themselves. Despite the favoring in legal education of a particular type, the practice of law needs: people who prefer acting without getting bogged down in reflection (extraverts); people who prefer giving attention to details, facts and reality of the situation (sensing); people who prefer making judgments based on the underlying value implications (feeling); and people who prefer spontaneous and flexible environments (perceptive). It is the responsibility of legal education to assure those characteristics in the profession by facilitating the learning of all types.


EPILOGUE

I graduated eleventh in my law school class. I significantly outperformed my LSAT of 33, which was somewhat below the class median. I significantly outperformed my UGPA of 2.3, which was well below the class median. I excelled despite my learning disability. As a ENTJ, I had a relative advantage. I know that as a person who had learned over the years how to study effectively I had a significant advantage.

All law students deserve that advantage and we, legal educators, should take responsibility for helping them gain it.

 


 

Associate Professor of Law, The University of Dayton School of Law. J.D., Northwestern School of Law, Lewis and Clark College, 1987; M.S.N., University of Washington, 1978; B.S.N., University of Texas, 1972.

I would like to thank the Institute for Law School Teaching for the grant under which this document was developed. Points of view expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position or policies of the Institute for Law School Teaching. I would also like to thank my colleagues: Professors Kimberly O'Leary, Susan Brenner and Marla Mitchell for their critical and helpful comments. Finally, I am grateful for the prompt and untiring research assistance of Lisa Feeling, Tshaka Randall and Scott Hauert. I cannot, of course, forget the continuing good humor and support of my sons -- Tshaka and Issa.. So, even before entering law school, I undertook a goal of figuring out what the legal education system wanted. I bought several books on how to study for law school and, unlike many students, I did not enter law school thinking that I would become some great legal scholar, jurist, rainmaker, or even a law professor. I entered focused on conquering the environment.