DE and Te

I’ve now finished my first distance education (DE) class. While I have learned stuff about research methods, I’ve been more interested in what I’ve inadvertently learned about my MBTI type. (For one thing, Agada’s 1998 study shows that there are significantly more ISTJs and INTJs in library and information science than in the general population. I don’t know whether I’m pleased that I’m in a “natural” profession for my type or annoyed that I apparently can’t think outside the type box.) But when I’m not bumping into the occasional interesting bit of research trivia, I’ve also had the occasional MBTI-related insight.

To begin with, I figured that introverts should take well to DE. You can compose your answer in private and send it off when you’re ready, unlike a live class where you need to fight the extraverts for air time and blurt things out to keep up your oral participation score. And all of this was true and I appreciated the peace and quiet, but I was surprised at how hard it was to stay focused. There’s introversion, and then there’s the feeling that you’re lost in a gray fog, unable to connect with anyone or even think straight. I dutifully read (most of) the assigned readings, posted half-hearted comments as required, even managed to post responses to other people’s comments on occasion, and still felt like I was in a vacuum.

The semester crept on. One week, the professor asked us to prepare a list of research questions, partner up with a classmate, and exchange feedback. Out went the questions, back came the responses. And boom, everything snapped back into place. Some part of my brain that had gone into hibernation roared back to life. It analyzed her questions, probed for weak spots, nodded approvingly at the best questions. It scanned her feedback to my questions and calculated how to integrate her points. And after it finished the assignment, it began analyzing its own resurgence, and that’s where this blog entry comes from.

In MBTI-speak, everyone gets an introverted function and an extraverted function. One is dominant, the other functions as an auxiliary. Me, I get Introverted Intuition (Ni) as the dominant, aided and abetted by Extraverted Thinking (Te). Emphasis, apparently, on “extraverted.” In the isolated environment of asynchronous DE, Te shut down. That left Ni with nothing to focus it, and let me assure you, Ni does not focus on its own. Enter the gray fog: half-formed thoughts floating around, never brought to completion.

The class had been noticeably low on feedback until this assignment. I think the discussion requirements were supposed to keep us actively connecting to each other, but our comments almost never made the leap to real discussions. They were just mostly one-off posts, rarely connecting to each other, never referencing past comments. With this assignment, there was finally something that required analysis (Thinking), not just insight (Intuition).

So now that my research class is over, I finally have something I want to research. How do other people’s extraverted functions—dominant or auxiliary—work in DE? Maybe it’s too simple to say introverts will like DE and extraverts will struggle more; maybe it’s more like part of you will take to DE and the other part needs contact to work well. So I think I know how Te goes under in DE, but that still leaves the other extraverted functions (Sensing, Intuition, and Feeling). What would’ve it been like if I’d been someone with dominant Introverted Feeling and my Extraverted Intuition shut down? Aargh—all these questions and no easy way to answer them!

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