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Brad is a Thinker

Brad values logic and organization. He has difficulty reviewing musical performances, creative work or prose because of their subjective nature. Brad excels at tasks such as theoretical analysis and the science of musical sound.

Brad makes judgments based on principle and fairness.  He is able to stand firm in his beliefs and conclusions. Brad’s performances are precise and perfect but may lack an emotional connection.

In discussions Brad may show little mercy toward those who have an opposite viewpoint.  He is generally not interested in either persuasion or mediation and may not notice or consider the values and feelings of others. Because of this he may appear arrogant and insensitive.

Helen is a Feeler

Helen makes judgments based on feelings. She excels at reviewing musical performances, creative work, and prose. Helen encounters difficulties with tasks, such as theory or keyboard musicianship, which require her to think logically and be organized.

Helen considers the feelings, needs, and values of others. In discussions she may be overly accepting of others opinions and never really form her own conclusions. She is good at letting go of the musical score and expressing herself.

Helen is a good leader but needs a harmonious group with which to work. She does not deal well with contentious group members.

Brad needs methods and materials with clear instructions and goals. Because he tends to behave as a “loner”, he generally does not function well in group situations. When dealing with thinkers in groups it can be very effective to give them a special very organized task to accomplish within that group. Brad’s teacher uses detailed rubrics when he is to give feedback to peers or complete a listening assignment. Brad himself has helped to create a few.  These rubrics absolutely avoid generalized ratings and terms such as super or needs work.

The teacher has learned to be very specific with Brad – citing measure numbers in her comments has been a very effective tool. Brad has also progressed in his ability to self-evaluate through the use of these techniques. Thinkers such as Brad may attempt to avoid open ended improvisation, experimentation, or composition projects. If you want to encourage experimentation be certain to create a step by step process for the student to follow.

Helen also needs clear instructions and materials that help her organize and stay on track. Because she is sensitive to others individuality and needs, Helen is a good leader. She values harmony, conciliation, and facilitation.  Helen loves chamber music and other group projects but she often needs help and support to find her own voice and value her own individuality. Last year Helen participated in a digital keyboard ensemble with other students from her teacher’s studio.

During rehearsals one of the other students continually made inappropriate negative comments about the other group members. Another student was inflexible, opinionated, and refused to take others’ opinions into account. Helen became increasingly unhappy with the lack of group harmony and withdrew into herself more and more. Her teacher now carefully chooses group members who work with Helen in order to promote harmony.

Both Brad and Helen can become very emotional when they are criticized. They feel very vulnerable when weaknesses in their non-dominant characteristic are questioned. As a feeler, Helen responds angrily to comments regarding her need to think logically and stay organized.  As a thinker, Brad is furious when his emotional connection to the music or ability to respond to other people is questioned.

Thinking students need highly organized and logically sequenced materials and presentations. They want to bring order out of chaos. These students may resist assignments that they feel are arbitrary or illogical – sometimes vocally. Thinking students are most comfortable working unemotionally and will value decisions based on rules for stylistic performance over more personal considerations (life of the composer, associations, or feelings.)

Feeling students value personal expression, broad connections and overall associations over rules or theories. These students want to identify with people and situations. They are happiest and most comfortable when they feel that they are appreciated and important to others. Feeling students need materials and subject matter that they care deeply about.

You’ve probably known a few students who fit the characteristics of thinking/feeling. Here’s a few questions for you to muse upon. What strategies were effective with these students? What strategies would you like to try now? What about yourself? Do you feel these two characteristics are fairly balanced within you or do you have a marked inclination toward one side or the other? How might this have affected your success with your thinker/feeler students?

GSU Master Teacher Program: On Learning Styles

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