Personality preferences in your 4-H club: Sensing and intuition

Strategies to make sure sensors and intuitives enjoy learning in your 4-H club.

“Learning to learn” is one of the life skills young people build through their experiences in 4-H. Through the experiential learning process, 4-H members engage in critical thinking, problem-solving and decision-making. These experiences help them gain a deeper understanding of the learning style they prefer as individuals, as well as some methods that are a bit more challenging for them.

When exploring something new, the learner often begins by taking in information. People with different personality preferences naturally process information in different ways. The Myers Briggs Type Indicator classifies those preferences in two categories: sensing and intuition. In general, people with a preference for sensing focus on facts, details and information they can collect through their five senses. By contrast, individuals who prefer intuition tend to notice patterns in the information and make connections to other experiences or possibilities.

If you’re not sure which of those personality preferences describes you, try these methods to delve a bit deeper. Read the brief descriptions provided by the Myers and Briggs Foundation. Watch this short video, which gives examples of how sensors and intuitives tend to communicate differently, and think about which one sounds most like you. Still unsure? This song sung by sensing Bert and intuitive Ernie might help you clarify your preference.

It’s important for 4-H club leaders to have some understanding of their own personality preferences, because that self-awareness is the first step to having a truly inclusive club. Our preferences feel very natural to us, so it’s easy to assume that our way of taking in information is the “right” way, and that all young people learn the way we do. That’s not the case. Research data indicates that just over 70 percent of the population has a preference for sensing, and just under 30 percent has a preference for intuition.

To help make sure all young people in your club have an equal opportunity to learn new things in the way that’s best for them, try these strategies:

  • Sensors sometimes enjoy organizing facts as they gather them. When planning activities, provide opportunities for sensors to take notes in a linear fashion. Timelines, lists and outlines of key topics are great tools for sensors.
  • Intuitives sometimes like to capture their ideas in a non-linear manner. Encourage them to draw pictures or mind maps.
  • Ask refection questions that appeal to both personality preferences. When you ask the group to “share the facts” they discovered, you’ll encourage the sensors to talk. To make sure the intuitives have a chance to participate, ask a question about connections. Try, “Have you ever seen anything like this before?” or “How might we use this new information?”
  • When giving directions for learning activities, provide specifics that will appeal to the sensors. Let them know how much time they’ll have to complete the activity, write out the steps they’ll need to complete, and give an example of what their finished product might look like. Provide some options for the intuitives to do a bit of creative thinking, too. If the participants are supposed to write a paragraph about what they learned, be flexible enough to allow a skit or song as the final product.
  • It’s OK if the activity you’re leading doesn’t lend itself to creative solutions. Just be aware a linear, fact-focused activity will be easier for the sensors in the group. Try to alternate those activities with creative problem-solving activities, and all the members of your club will be able to stretch and grow together.
  • Talk about personality preferences with young people and make sure they understand they are valuable contributors to the group. For some great examples of kid-friendly language to describe the differences between intuition and sensing, check out this video based on the Murphy Meisgeier Type Indicator for Children.

This is Part 4 in a Michigan State University Extension series on personality preferences and youth development. For more, see:

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