Temperament and Learning


Adapted from Donna Dunning, Quick Guide to the Four Temperaments and Learning: Practical Tools and Strategies for Enhancing Learning Effectiveness (Telos Publications, 2003) *Used with permission

Creating a Learning Strategy

As well as knowing how you prefer to learn, you need to have a strategy for how to learn. A learning strategy will confirm specifically what is to be learned and why. When making a learning strategy, focus on and attend to the details of your learning, ensure that all the resources you need are available, schedule your time and resource use, and set specific goals and deadlines to work toward. When you take all of these steps you can develop a clear sense of progression toward a meaningful goal. A well-formed learning strategy can help you achieve your goals. This section will focus on the components that will ensure a learning strategy is practical, complete, and usable.



Components of an Effective Learning Strategy

Here is a summary of the components of an effective learning strategy. Use this as a framework from which to develop your personalized learning strategy.

  1. Learning Target: A clear and specific description of what you are planning to learn.
  2. Reason for Learning: The main reason you want to meet your learning target now.
  3. A Way to Demonstrate Learning: How to show others that your learning is completed.
  4. Mechanics of Learning: The practical details of how, where, and when the learning will occur. Potential blocks and barriers that may negatively affect your learning will also be identified and strategies developed to overcome each one.
  5. Resources: A complete list of all materials and people that need to be accessed before your learning can be completed.
  6. Commitment: Your signature agreeing to meet the requirements and timelines of your plan as well as the signature of a coach, supervisor, or other involved parties.

In the Quick Guide to the Four Temperaments and Learning: Practical Tools and Strategies for Enhancing Learning Effectiveness, each of these learning strategy components are explored in more detail to help you plan for and implement your learning effectively. We've provided an example here;

1. Learning Target

What specifically are you focused on learning?

A learning target is the specific skill or knowledge you are planning to learn or develop. An effective workplace learning target should enhance your work performance, positively affect the performance of your organization, and help move you forward on your career path.

If you are employed and can find learning targets that meet these criteria, you will have a greater chance of accessing resources from your organization. In some cases you will need to produce a business case demonstrating why and how your learning will positively affect the business. This will help you negotiate time, money, or other resources for your learning.

Jim was able to negotiate time and funding for a master's program when he showed his leader how the program would add value to his organization. This particular program offered a practical project-based learning model that allowed him to partially complete his school requirements by taking on a project at work designed to positively affect business results.

If you are self-employed, you will want to ensure that the learning you are engaged in will add value to the product or service you provide. When seeking to change jobs, focus on learning that will enhance your marketability. Look for skills and knowledge that are valued in your geographical area or in an industry area you would like to move into.

Learning targets can be short and long term. You may want to meet a broad set of requirements to obtain credentials in an area. This may be a learning project that takes place over a number of years. On the other hand, you may simply want to learn a very specific application. This learning perhaps could be accomplished in a day or a week. Focus on both long- and short-term targets.

When making a learning strategy, it is best to consider a shorter time frame between a few weeks to a few months. This will allow you to complete one specific course, meet a single set of criteria, or accomplish some other learning objective. Once you have completed this specific learning you can move on to the next objective. However, keeping your longer-term goals in mind can help you set specific learning targets. Longer-term goals can also be an important motivator. Remember that learning is a life-long endeavor, so setting and meeting learning targets will likely be an ongoing part of your work and personal life.

Chris was moving to a different part of the country and would need to find a new job there. She was able to find two short training programs that enhanced her existing skills. Before enrolling in the training she checked to ensure that the program qualifications were transferable to and in demand in the new location where she would be working.

The more specifically you define your learning target, the easier it will be to access resources and make your plan. For example, if you want to improve your computer skills, there will be literally hundreds of steps you can take. Enhancing your typing speed will require different resources and learning strategies than learning how to manipulate spreadsheets.

Temperament and Learning

Temperament will influence how and what individuals prefer to learn. If you are currently helping someone learn or learning from someone else, you may want to compare your learning styles. You will likely prefer to teach the same way you prefer to learn, so look for differences between your style and the style of the person you will be helping or learning from. Focus on becoming aware of, understanding, appreciating, and accommodating these differences in learning style.

When Learning, the Temperaments prefer: (shortened list)


• Teachers who take time to understand their students' unique needs, interests, and goals
• Being mentored by someone who takes a personal interest in them
• Linking concepts to ideas for developing potential in people
• Metaphors, analogies, and other abstract ways of linking ideas
• Sensitive and individualized feedback


• Being in a structured, routine, and predictable learning environment
• Following conventions, rules, and established procedures
• Targeting learning on practical, immediate applications, needs, and situations
• Information presented in a step-by-step, sequential format
• Formalized acknowledgment when standards are achieved and learning is completed


• Logical explanations and interpretations of information
• Using analysis and critical thinking
• Being competitive learners
• Focusing on a high quality, complex result
• Learning that is conceptualized and managed efficiently
• Overviewing systems and processes before learning details


• Demonstrating their learning through actions
• Teachers who are interesting, active, and willing to be playful
• Maneuvering out of learning tasks that are uninteresting
• Avoiding long classroom sessions or other sedentary forms of learning
• Avoiding reading assignments, especially if materials are not practical, succinct, or relevant

Adapted from Donna Dunning, Quick Guide to the Four Temperaments and Learning: Practical Tools and Strategies for Enhancing Learning Effectiveness (Telos Publications, 2003) *Used with permission

Find out more about Donna Dunning, M.Ed.




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