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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

How to engage students with ESTP and ESFP preferences in college

Written by Catherine Rains

First, let’s look at the learning style of students with ES preferences. They are looking for a classroom experience that is practical, real-life and hands-on. They want to experience what they are learning and test this learning in a group setting, rather than just listening to a lecture, reflecting on what they have heard, and being tested on the material. They also want their faculty to provide clear steps on any assignment, and be given opportunities to think out loud. In addition, they learn by talking out what they are learning. Add the P preference to ES, and you have someone that wants this hands-on, active learning to be fun.

Next week we’ll look at who is teaching our ESTP and ESFP students, which could be part of the reason they are at risk.


  1. I think it's important to recognize that while ESTP and ESFP students may have different preferences from many of their professors, that the reality of teaching requires instructors to adapt to the student preferences, not the other way around.

    I'm in academia, and have taught at a university which is well known for its athletics. The most popular major is business. I don't know the actual distribution, but I've long suspected that ESxP is the dominant type, and in fact, everything you just said, sounds to me like the "typical" student.

    In fact, in academia, your success is contingent on getting very high numbers on student evaluation forms. What that means is that if students are bored, or if they don't feel that the teacher has structured the class in a way conducive to their preferred style of learning, that the students will give poor evaluations. If the teacher doesn't alter their style within a reasonable amount of time (e.g. a year) then they will find that they don't have a job. My experience is in a private school which is admittedly more student-centered but with the rising costs of tuition everywhere, this is becoming increasingly commonplace.

    Most professors, if they want tenure, will generally change their style to fit the student body. This takes a long time--combining time teaching as a graduate student (necessary to get a job after the PhD) with the time to tenure, this could be as long as ten years. This is assuming one gets a tenure track job (which is often extraordinarily difficult). If you work as an adjunct long-term, you pretty much will be on a (hopefully renewable) one-year contract for the duration of your career. For this reason, when the professor's style is at odds with the average student, it is increasingly the case that it is the professor who adapts.

    If ESxP students don't have the graduation rates that other types do, it may be in part an issue of choice. I've met a lot of students who feel pressured by parental expectations to complete college when what they really want to do is something more fun and hands-on, such as teaching scuba diving or starting their own company. Many of them will probably be quite successful at doing so once they're done with school, but the pressure from their parents to go to a good school and achieve high grades is a tremendous weight for them.

  2. Response from Catherine Rains:

    Thanks so much for sharing the faculty perspective on this. Encouraging to know that faculty feel the pressure to adapt their teaching style to meet student learning styles. Not being a faculty person myself, this is not something I had considered. I do agree that many ESxP’s could choose not to finish college simply because something more fun shows up. I’ve met several who dropped out for just that reason, however it was also because school couldn’t compete with what showed up.