The 2e Profile: Multiple Perspectives

By Susan Baum, Cynthia Novak, Lesli Preuss, and Marcy Dann

September, 2009

Jane, at 11, is a creative dreamer. Rarely are things completed in a timely manner. According to her mother, Jane can’t focus on the task at hand. Her mother, a highly organized professional who prides herself on running her home and family with precision, is frustrated by her daughter.

For instance, Jane’s job is to clear the dinner table and load the dishwasher – a task her Mom estimates should take 10 minutes. For Jane, it usually takes three times that long. Why? Highly verbal Jane has turned this boring, predictable task into a creative opportunity by inventing a novel way to clear the table. She carefully varies the sequence according to innovative categories. One night she may first remove all the dishes that contain vegetables and then those that are perfectly clean. She may decide to collect the silverware by taking one spoon, two forks, three knives, and then reverse the pattern. She carries on a lively discussion during this process as if she were teaching young children to categorize.

Placing the dishes in the dishwasher offers more creative opportunities. Jane often pretends that she is acting in a commercial trying to sell the detergent, the dishes, or the dishwasher. This commercial may include jingles, dance, or rhyme. Jane’s mom, who does not find this amusing, fails to enjoy her daughter’s creative talents. After all, there’s homework to be done and bedtime routines to be followed. Jane’s mother wonders if her daughter may have AD/HD; and, if so, would medication help her to focus? We can see that it matters to Jane’s mother how a task is accomplished, perhaps more than if it is accomplished.

 Is Jane 2e?

Are the creative traits that Jane displays indicative of AD/HD? Perhaps, but the dynamics revealed in Jane’s scenario might be better understood from a “style” perspective. Jane and her mother have two distinct personal styles, or ways of interacting with the world.

We are conditioned to look at the behaviors of 2e youngsters as deficits. For instance, as soon as we hear of a highly verbal child like Jane, who is also an energetic, risk taking, multi-tasker, we think AD/HD. Likewise, Asperger syndrome comes to mind when we hear descriptions of youngsters who get upset by the lack of predictability in their environment and have a need for structure and detailed instructions. What we need to keep in mind is that students with learning and behavioral issues often do manifest these traits. However, these same traits are also found in the general population and are used to describe personal styles.

Differences in Personal Style

We all possess different degrees of personality traits that make us unique. Some of us prefer order and predictability. We feel comfortable when we work on a schedule, and a good day is when we can check everything off our “to do list.” Others of us are more spontaneous. We become bored when things are too predictable.

These distinctions help to explain the differences between Jane and her Mom. Is one better than the other? That, of course, depends on the situation. In an ideal world, we could spend the majority of our time in environments that allow us to produce in ways that align to our personal style. However, in the real world there are times when we need to be flexible and to accomplish tasks and adapt to the demands of the environment. The secret is balance. If Jane spends most of her time in an environment that requires a rigid schedule and strict adherence to rules and specific directions, she may act out or shut down. On the other hand, if she continues to disregard the times when she needs to be more focused and act in a timely manner, she may keep herself from accomplishing important goals.

Mind Styles Model

At Bridges Academy, we have found the work of Anthony Gregorc (1987) to be useful in helping teachers and parents understand youngsters like Jane and in suggesting strategies for helping these children be successful and productive academically, socially, and emotionally. Dr. Gregorc’s model, Mind Styles, is based on the work of Carl Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist who introduced the idea of personality archetypes or styles.

Gregorc’s research led him to develop a style model based on two dimensions: perception and organization. These two dimensions combine to form the four styles shown in Figure 1:

  • Concrete sequential. People with this style deal with the here and now – those things that humans experience through their five senses.
  • Abstract sequential. People who have this style tend to prefer ideas and feelings as they interact with their world.
  • Concrete random. You can identify people with this style by their tendency to be sequential and to prefer linear approaches that follow a logical train of thought.
  • Abstract random. People with this style organize ideas and information in chunks, with no observable pattern. They tend to prefer spontaneity over predictability.

While we all possess all four styles, we are unique in our preferences and abilities across these dimensions.

Concrete Sequential

Abstract Sequential

These learners like:

  • Order
  • Logical sequence
  • Following directions, predictability
  • Getting facts

They learn best when they:

  • Have a structured environment
  • Can rely on others to complete a task
  • Are faced with predictable situations
  • Can apply ideas in pragmatic ways

What can be hard for them is:

  • Working in groups
  • Discussions that seem to have no specific point
  • Working in an unorganized environment
  • Following incomplete or unclear directions
  • Working with unpredictable people
  • Dealing with abstract ideas
  • Demands to “use your imagination”
  • Questions with no right or wrong answers

These learners like:

  • For their point to be heard
  • Analyzing situations before making a decision or acting
  • Applying logic in solving or finding solutions to problems

They learn best when they:

  • Have access to experts or references
  • Are placed in stimulating environments
  • Are able to work alone

What can be hard for them is:

  • Being forced to work with those who have differing views
  • Having too little time to deal with a subject thoroughly
  • Repeating the same tasks over and over
  • Many specific rules and regulations
  •  “Sentimental” thinking
  • Expressing their emotions
  • Being diplomatic when convincing others
  • Not monopolizing a conversation

Concrete Random 

Abstract Random

These learners like to:

  •  Experiment to find answers
  •   Take risks
  •   Use their intuition
  •   Solve problems independently

They learn best when they:

  • Can use trial-and-error approaches
  • Can compete with others
  •  Are given the opportunity to work by themselves.     

What can be hard for them is:

  • Restrictions and limitations
  • Formal reports
  • Routines
  • Re-doing anything once it’s done
  • Keeping detailed records
  • Showing how they got an answer
  • Choosing only one answer
  •  Having no options

 

These learners like:

  • Listening to others
  • Bringing harmony to group situations
  •  Establishing healthy relationships with others
  •  Focusing on the issues at hand

They learn best when they:

  • Are in a personalized environment
  • Are given broad or general guidelines
  •  Are able to maintain friendly relationships
  •  Can participate in group activities

What can be hard for them is:

  • Having to explain or justify feelings
  • Competition
  • Working with dictatorial/authoritarian personalities
  • Working in a restrictive environment
  • Working with people who don’t seem friendly
  • Concentrating on one thing at a time
  • Giving exact details
  • Accepting even positive criticism

 Figure 1:  Gregorc’s Mind Styles Model (web.cortland.edu/andersmd, 2009, August 24).

Personality Prototype Model

Gregorc’s model has been instrumental in stimulating research that connects personal style to 2e students and their issues. For example, a model called the Personality Prototype Model (Nicols & Baum 2003) discusses possible connections between style theory and 2e traits. In addition, the model offers an assessment tool appropriate for middle and secondary students. Combining elements of both of the Mind Styles Model and the Personality Prototype Model provides us with insights into four types of students. Following is a description of each.

Practical Managers: The Concrete Sequential Student

Students with strengths in the concrete sequential style, including those who are twice exceptional, function as “Practical Managers.” They have a gift for organizing people and things. Their rooms or desks are neat, their clothes are usually hung up, and their possessions are put away in an organized fashion. These students appreciate and follow rules, and they make sure others do the same. Socially, they are happier with one or two friends who share their interests and talents.

Practical Managers

Gifts

Needs

Possible Problems

  •  Pay attention to details (love deadlines, timelines, punctuality)
  • Create to improve products or ideas
  • Have finely tuned senses
  • Keep others on task
  • Orderly, predictable environment
  • Structure, clear expectations, and detailed directions
  • Opportunities to elaborate and add detail
  • Perfectionism
  • Rigidity
  • Seeing the world in black and white

 

 Figure 2: Traits of Practical Managers (Nicols & Baum, 2003)

Life works well for Practical Managers when they know what is expected and how they will be evaluated. The more events unfold as planned, the happier Practical Managers are. Quiet, orderly environments help them learn, and these students enjoy having a plan and checking off tasks as they complete them. 

Difficulties may occur when Practical Managers have minimum abilities in other styles to keep them balanced. For instance, although they are excellent with details, Practical Managers may become over focused on details at times. These students can appear obsessive/compulsive and exhibit perfectionistic characteristics. Practical Managers can be over-stimulated and overwhelmed. With their finely honed senses, they may be over-sensitive to light, sound, and textures. They can become upset when things are out of place or when their routine changes. Practical Managers can become stressed when uncertain of the requirements of a task or situation, when there is too much chaos, or when no one seems in charge!

Many gifted students with Asperger syndrome share a majority of the characteristics associated with the Practical Manager/Concrete Sequential style. Their preference for the concrete world appears in their proclivity to become experts on the facts and details of topics. Although these students like to manage others according to how to they perceive things should be done, their lack of social skills can get in the way. Practical Manager/Concrete Sequential students are often frustrated by open-ended activities. Their strength, however, is in adding details to others’ ideas. Learning environments that are loosely structured and overly stimulating cause these youngsters much stress and can disengage them from learning.

The Learned Experts: Abstract Sequential Students

Some highly gifted students show strengths in the Abstract Sequential style. Indeed, they are “Learned Experts,” with a talent for scholarly pursuits. Students with these strengths often become class experts on complex and abstract topics. They love to hypothesize and synthesize. Such students crave knowledge and satiate this hunger by reading, watching documentaries, and listening to interesting and informed people. In fact, Learned Experts often would rather read or hear about the adventure than experience it. These students possess advanced vocabularies and can express themselves eloquently. They usually earn good grades, and they enjoy discussions and writing papers. They are very logical and enjoy verbal debate – often arguing for the sake of the debate.

Learned Experts are happiest when engaged in some sort of intellectual pursuit or interacting with others whose abilities they admire. They engage fully when allowed to give their opinion and make their points of view known. Learned Experts tend to need little sleep and may be found with book and flashlight in hand as they prepare for bed.

Learned Experts

Gifts

Needs

Possible Problems

  • Very knowledgeable
  • Can synthesize ideas and create theories and models
  • Outstanding vocabulary
  •  Excellent debaters
  • Intellectually stimulating environment
  • Games and activities that require strategizing
  • Opportunities to research, discuss, and hypothesize
  • Intolerance of others perceived as less smart
  • Using sarcasm
  • Being opinionated
  • Being argumentative

Figure 3: Traits of Learned Experts (Nicols & Baum, 2003)

These students are often stressed when the curriculum is not complex or the lessons move along too slowly. They can be sarcastic and unaware of the image they project, unable to understand why people might not like them.

Highly gifted students (especially verbal students) and some students with Asperger syndrome exhibit many of these talents and problems. They may enjoy the pursuit of knowledge to such an extent that they are unwilling to end the research part of a task. Learning environments that don’t offer advanced explorations of topics and issues or that limit the opportunities for these kinds of students to be with one another inadvertently obstruct the development of their bright minds, often causing behavioral problems.

People Person: The Abstract Random Student

The Abstract Random student, the consummate “People Person,” has a talent for human relations and creating harmony. People Persons live in a world of feelings and can identify the emotional climate of the room as soon as they enter. These youngsters have many friends and enjoy social interaction. Because they operate from a feeling level, they are often talented in the visual or performing arts.

People Persons are happiest when allowed to connect meaningfully with others inside and outside of school. They perform well in group activities and can contribute to the process by helping others get along. Because they are eager to please, they like special jobs. Students with strengths in this style perform best when they feel appreciated and special.

People Persons

Gifts

Needs

Possible Problems

  • Creating harmony
  • Colorful, dramatic
  • Social skills
  •  Attuned to feelings
  • Colorful, social environment
  •  Opportunities to interact with others
  • Opportunities for creative expression
  • Disorganization, lack of attention to details
  •  Repressing own needs to keep the peace and avoid conflict
  • Being overly sensitive or dramatic

Figure 4   Traits of People Persons (Baum & Nicols, 2004)

People Persons can be disorganized and lost in the emotions of the moment. They tend to become stressed when there is conflict; and they can be overly sensitive, experience melt downs, and over dramatize and exaggerate events. Personal relationships take priority over academic tasks for these students. Because they want to belong, some People Persons may keep their needs to themselves and defer to the group to maintain their connection with peers. 

Because they have been subjected to criticism and have had difficulty meeting the demands of particular kinds of learning, many 2e students are often focused on how to fit in and be accepted. They are emotionally sensitive to the reactions of others when they perceive that they are not included or accepted. If the learning environment is overly critical, and the students do not feel as though they belong, twice-exceptional students who have the People Person style will shut down and be emotionally unavailable to learn.

Creative Problem Solvers: The Concrete Random Student

Students like Jane, introduced in the initial scenario, have strengths in the Concrete Random area and are best identified by their talent for innovation. They are the “Creative Problem Solvers” of the world, energetically leaping from one idea to another. Never satisfied with the status quo, they can always find a better way to do anything and, in fact, would much prefer to do it their way. Unlike the more sequential students, Creative Problem Solvers understand that rules can be bent and exceptions made for the good of the cause. They may appear impulsive as they leap first and then look. They tend to see the end result first, and then identify the steps they need to get there. This group is always taking risks if there is a chance for fun and adventure.

Creative Problem Solvers

Gifts

Needs

Possible Problems

  • Divergent thinker who can generate many ideas
  • Flair for adventure and spontaneity
  • Empathetic
  • Life of the party, fun
  • Creative environment
  • Options
  • Opportunities for multiple projects
  • Disorganization, lack of attention to details
  • Difficulty following directions
  • Stubbornness, having own agenda

Figure 5: Traits of Creative Problem Solvers (Baum & Nicols, 2004)

Creative Problem Solvers are the happiest when given choices and when working on multiple projects at once. They prefer open-ended assignments and opportunities to be creative. They do best when allowed to pursue the assignments or tasks their own way with a few general guidelines.

Creative Problem Solvers can be disorganized. Often, they fail to listen to directions and can be confused about what is expected of them. They test rules and have a dislike for routine. These youngsters are often stressed by having to focus on the sequential details required in many learning environments. They also have difficulty making commitments in and out of school.

Creative Problem Solvers share the same characteristics as many students with AD/HD. Learning environments that match these students’ needs include discovery learning; use of teachable moments; mild competition; use of learning games; and options in terms of topics, products, and schedule. Inflexible learning environments with many rules can cause these youngsters to become oppositional and defiant.

Final Thoughts

When 2e students, their parents, and their teachers learn about personal styles, they can relate better to one other and cope more easily with the demands of the school and home environments. If Jane’s mother better understood Jane as a Creative Problem Solver, her mother could then better appreciate and nurture Jane’s rich imagination. Supporting Jane’s need for choice, her mother could help Jane develop her own schedule for completing tasks.

When we accept that we all have different personality styles, we can begin to appreciate the unique contributions that each brings to family, school, and personal relationships. Life works better for us if we can spend the majority of time in environments that align to our strengths; but, of course, there will be times when a task or a situation will require the ability to use the skills from our less-preferred styles.

Parents and teachers who understand the personality profiles described here and use them to plan are better able to arrange appropriate environments for 2e youngsters and to provide necessary support when needed. In the next column we will explore how knowledge of personality styles can be useful in helping 2e students to organize, study, socialize, and resolve conflict.

References

  • Gregorc, A. (1982). An Adult’s Guide to Style. Maynard, MA: Gabriel Systems.
  • Nicols, H., & Baum, S. (2003). A toolkit for teens: A guide for helping adolescents manage stress. Washington, DC: Office of Overseas Schools, United States Department of State.
  • Mind Styles: Anthony Gregorc. Retrieved August 24, 2009, from http://web.cortland.edu/andersmd/learning/gregorc.htm.

Would you like to learn more about the Baum & Nicols Personality Prototype Profiler and how to administer it to students? You will find a link at this website: http://internationalcenterfortalentdevelopment.com. The website also provides a link to additional information on Anthony Gregorc’s model, Mind StylesTM.

All of the authors of this article work at Bridges Academy in the following capacities: Susan Baum is Director of Professional Development, Marcy Dann is an Educational Therapist, Cynthia Novak is the Middle School Director, and Lesli Preuss is the School Psychologist.  

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