Learning Styles and Coaching - Steve Barkley

Learning Styles and Coaching

I recently conducted a workshop session for instructional coaches looking at how their personal learning styles influenced their coaching approach. Everyone began by completing the Kaleidoscope Learning Styles Profile for Educators. Coaches identified their range and degree of preference in the areas of sensory preference (kinesthetic, tactual, auditory, visual) perceptual preference (abstract, concrete) and organizational preference (sequential, global) and temperament preferences (NF NT SJ SP)

Intuitive Feeler (NF)—these teachers value personal integrity. They are relationship oriented, focusing on personal values – their own and others. A coach working with an NF teacher would do well to focus on the relationship aspect of the coaching process. In learning, personal significance and emotional content are important. They do not like being labeled because they value being unique individuals, not types. The NF may have difficulty viewing a learning experience or making a decision from any but a personal, subjective, or empathic position.

Intuitive Thinker (NT)—coaches or coaches with this temperament style tend to be rational in their approach to life. They need (and give) logical reasons for their learning, being very concerned about competence and “doing it well.” They enter into conversations to analyze information, gain knowledge and problem solve. Living in the intellectual sphere, a coach or coachee may at first appear cold or unemotional and have difficulty limiting a learning task or question to the issue at hand, relating it instead to larger complexities of life. Knowing this trait goes a long way in shoring up the coach-coachee relationship.

Sensing Judgers (SJ)—SJ teachers and coaches have a strong sense of order and correctness, particularly in the way communication is carried out. They value organization, predictability, and usefulness in the here and now. SJ’s want to “do it right!” Having things go smoothly is very important to them. When working with a teacher who is an SJ, a coach may focus on those aspects of order. Loyal and committed, Sensing Judgers often take on more responsibility than they can handle.

Sensing Perceivers (SP)—The Sensing Perceiving teachers value variety and excitement in learning and in life. They are after the thrill of learning and competency over predictability. Practical, an SP coach or coachee will enjoy the immediate and can often be competitive. SP coaches may want their coachees to take on more risk. They tend to appreciate style and performance. They are not planners as much as they are responders—the “firefighters” of the school or organization.

In a coaching relationship, conflicts might arise if, for example, the Intuitive Feeling person wants a friendly relationship with his or her coach. If the coach’s style is different, that desire may get missed and misunderstanding can occur.

If a coach is an Intuitive Thinker, he or she may build more thinking and analyzing into the coaching session, and the Sensing Judging coachee may not relate to it. Or, the Sensing Judging teacher may be taken back by a Sensing Perceiving coach’s desire to take risks. In turn, the Sensing Perceiving teacher may be frustrated by an overly cautious Sensing Judging or Intuitive Feeling coach. But wait! Coaching is not meant to be frustrating—on the contrary. Because coaching derives its power from clear communication, knowing the styles of both the coach and the coachee greatly enhances the relationship, as each can appreciate how the other takes in, perceives, organizes, and communicates thoughts, beliefs, feedback and other information vital to the coaching process. If the style is not known precisely, being aware of style differences and discussing them can be the starting point to defuse any potential conflicts or misunderstandings.

As an auditory, abstract global, intuitive thinker I know that my coaching style leans toward extended conversations (auditory) thinking through the meaning and possibilities….enjoying my natural curiosity for the teaching/learning process. I must be aware that the Tactual, Concrete Sequential, Intuitive Feeler is more interested in how do we do this…and the Kinesthetic, Concrete Global Sensing Perceiver has left my coaching session at least mentally if not physically before I’ve gotten to the “interesting” (for me) part.

What do you know about your style? What must you be conscious of?

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3 Responses to “ Learning Styles and Coaching ”

  1. Karen Says:

    As an auditory, concrete sequential, sensing judger, I have learned more about myself and more about my responses to others through attending your workshop in Kansas. I will be attempting the same sort of presentation at the four high schools I serve sometime in January. I was wondering if you could make your powerpoint available, so that I could use some of that in my presentation. Thank you for explaining to me why some people drive me crazy–including at least one un-named abstract global coaching expert–and why I tend to drive others crazy–my abstract global coaching coordinators! This has been such an interesting journey.

  2. Stephen G. Barkley Says:


    I’d be happy to send you the power point… send me an email sbarkley@plsweb.com

  3. anna nye- Teacher at Grand Valley Local Schools Says:

    Mr. Barkely,

    Would it be possible for you to send me the powerpoint presentation and any handouts you made available when you came to Grand Valley Local Schools in Orwell, Ohio?

    I missed your presentation as I was taking my daughter to college at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA.


    Anna Nye

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