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College Quarterly
Winter 1993 - Volume 1 Number 2
True Colors in the Classroom
by Ed Wilson

True Colorsª is a personality preference inventory with solid historical roots, primarily in the now famous Myers Briggs Type Indicator. Dr. David Kiersey has refined the work of Myers Briggs, and in his book, Please Understand Me, reflects the basis of the "True Colors" philosophy. Don Lowry has developed True Colors and uses colour as a metaphor for understanding human characteristics and how intrinsic behaviour must be differently rewarded. He uses green, blue, orange and gold to represent the temperament types.

After a single training session with True Colors participants should: be able to recognize and appreciate their own unique strengths and preferences, the unique strengths and preferences of other staff members, and those of students as well; begin to build a sense of community on campus; and begin the process of enhancing their communications skills.

It works; it's a simple yet effective tool with several applications. I have used True Colors in the classroom primarily to introduce students to their learning style preferences. One's teaching style is easily identified. The benefit students seem to appreciate most, however, is the simple yet profound self-discovery element. After the scoring process to determine one's 'color,' one explores the strengths, needs, joys and values of one's primary personality type. It is a positive, self-esteem building exercise called 'brightening' which leads to the applications discussed above. In small groups, participants agree to those characteristics that make them unique as persons who are 'green,' 'blue,' 'orange' or 'gold.' If nothing else, the energy and discussion generated within an hour of introducing the instrument is worth the exercise, making it an ideal way of introducing students to each other and their course at the beginning of the term.

At Ontario's Western Region Orientation to College Teaching Program in August, 1993, we introduced the 70 participants to the True Colors instrument at the beginning of the week, focusing on teaching/learning styles. The teachers identified their True Colors by means of coloured dots worn on their name tags for the duration of the program. It promoted awareness immediately of different personality styles in the groups and discussion about teaching/learning styles in the classroom, a much more effective instrument than the one used in previous years. At the Phase II follow-up program in May, 1994, we will revisit True Colors and make further applications.

Ideally, one needs two hours to introduce True Colors and conduct the 'brightening' exercise. Applications beyond that need more time. Other effective applications are in Team Building and Conflict Resolution.

The distribution license for the materials is held by the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education Guidance Centre, 252 Bloor St. W., Toronto M5S 1V6. O.I.S.E. also provides training sessions for those wishing to conduct True Colors workshops

Teaching Style Models
  • Unstructured Discipline
  • Spontaneous
  • Hands-on Immediacy
  • Expects Student Variety
  • Strong Use of Innovative Approaches
  • Learning Linked “Here and Now”
  • Variety of Action Experiences
  • Emphasis on Relevancy
  • Fair/Democratic Discipline
  • Nurturing Format
  • Individualization / Cooperative Learning
  • Expects Student Initiated Learning
  • Strong Use of Variety of Materials
  • Learning Linked to Individual Needs
  • Adjustable Lesson Plans per Students needs
  • Emphasis on Application & Ownership
  • Firm Discipline
  • Organized Routine
  • Outlined Lectures
  • Expects Student Accountability
  • Strong use of Text / References
  • Learning Linked to Past Traditions
  • Detailed Lesson Plans / Syllabi
  • Emphasis on Traditional Content
  • Discipline Expected due to Interest
  • Sharing of Instructor Research
  • Lecture / Discussion
  • Expects Critical Thinking
  • Strong use of Outside materials
  • Learning Linked to Answering Questions
  • Logical but changing Lesson Plans
  • Emphasis on Futuristic Application
Student Learning Expectations
  • Direct Application of Knowledge
  • Competitive Instruction
  • Opportunities to Discover by Doing
  • Recognition for Immediate Application
  • Physical, Fun Activities / Simulations
  • Variety of Instructional Strategies
  • Content-Applied Learning
  • Open Interactive Atmosphere
  • Group/Cooperative Learning Environment
  • Opportunities for Self-Esteem / Reassurance
  • Recognition for Being an Individual
  • Imaginative / Creative “Sharing” Activities
  • Open-Communication Approach to Instruction
  • Conceptual & Content Learning
  • Structure with Clearly Defined Goals
  • Traditional Instruction
  • Opportunities to Share Responsibility
  • Recognition for Being On-Task
  • Foundation of Subject Established First
  • Routing, Rules, directed Instruction
  • Specific Content Learning
  • Theory Investigation
  • Independent Instruction
  • Opportunities to Explore New Knowledge
  • Recognition for Competence
  • Immediate Challenge
  • Beyond Text Instruction
  • Conceptual Learning

Ed Wilson is Consultant, Human Resources Development at Niagara College in Welland, Ontario