Teachers Learn to Adapt to Student Strengths

February 6th 2015, Written by Marie Campbell

Thanks to a recent grant, Peak to Peak high school in Lafayette has now administered the Indigo Assessment to all students and faculty. In order to begin integrating Indigo’s data with day-to-day classes, 25 teachers gathered Friday morning to learn what the Assessment means for their students. Sheri Smith, founder and CEO of Indigo, led the training session.

“Indigo focuses on strengths,” Smith told teachers. “You want to be in an environment where you are most natural.” For high school students considering college and career, that means choosing a path that fits their behavioral styles and feeds their innate motivators. For educators, that means tailoring any given classroom to appeal to the unique learning styles of their students.

Smith walked teachers step-by-step through their own Assessment results, describing each of the four behavioral styles: Dominance, Influencing, Steadiness, and Compliance (DISC). Across the board, students and faculty at Peak to Peak rank high in Influencing (positivity/enthusiasm) and Steadiness (stability/reliability).

As Smith was explaining the six motivators that drive students to learn, one teacher raised her hand. Carolyn Mckee, a science teacher, wanted to know how this information could apply to teachers as well as students. “I see how understanding my students’ motivators can help me reach them, but what about with my colleagues?” Mckee inquired. “Would this help me understand them?” The answer was an immediate “Yes!”

Smith affirmed that understanding how those around you see the world helps anyone interact successfully and harmoniously, whether students or faculty.

To illustrate, Smith asked teachers with high Steadiness scores to raise their hands. Nearly all Peak to Peak teachers responded. Then, Smith asked if anyone scored high in Dominance. Only a few responded. Smith encouraged the dominant personalities—the movers and shakers—to be respectful of the steady folk who don’t respond well to change. “Don’t make changes overnight! High ‘steady’s won’t be too happy!” The room rippled with laughter; heads nodded. They had experienced this confrontation before.

Smith then asked teachers to consider the different behavioral styles of their students. “What are some ways you can adjust your teaching styles to fit students whose styles might be opposite of yours?” Josh Benson, a teacher of multiple subjects at Peak to Peak including Literature and Composition, offered an example.

Benson has a relaxed teaching style, but in order to reach students with high Compliance scores (those who need structure and care about rules), he wants to provide stability. “I need to be good about posting assignments on the website,” Benson said, “because [students with high Compliance] need to know [. . .] what’s going to happen three weeks from now.”

When it comes to successful communication, respect is key. Indigo is founded on the idea that no one behavioral style is better or worse than any other; students simply need to know how to work from their strengths. “You’re not trying to change your kids,” Smith asserted. “You’re trying to see the world through their lens.” As students and teachers learn to adapt to one another’s varied styles, Peak to Peak hopes to increase student learning and foster a cooperative school environment.

Indigo is currently working with six high schools to help integrate non-academic data with existing academic curricula.