A multicultural comparison of engineering students: implications to teaching and learning.

Author:Seddigi, Zaki Shkair


We tend to teach, as we ourselves like to be taught and we commonly assume that our students can learn best by employing the same techniques that we used as students. However, people differ significantly in the way in which they learn best; it is believed that these learning styles are related to psychological types.

Educators have been using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) (1) to develop teaching methods and to understand both individual learning styles and differences in motivation. In this study, MBTI is used not only to classify Canadian and Saudi engineering students into personality types, but also on how to better understand their learning differences, strengths and weaknesses. The match or mismatch between the way that professors teach and the way that students learn may have important ramifications for levels of satisfaction with a given program or major and with retention of both students and teachers.

Briefly, the MBTI casts personalities into four bi-directional scales of preferences, but one direction from each scale is used to define a type. Of course, people can and do use all eight preferences in each of the four pairs, but we all have one preference that works better for us than its counterpart:

Extroversion and Introversion (E and I): Some people are oriented to a breadth-of-knowledge approach with quick action; others are oriented to a depth-of-knowledge approach reflecting on concepts and ideas. Jung calls these orientations extroversion and introversion.

Sensing and Intuition (S and N): Some people are attuned to the practical, hands-on, common-sense view of events, while other are more attuned to the complex interactions, theoretical implications, or new possibilities of events. These two styles of information gathering, or perception, are known as sensing and intuition, respectively.

Thinking and Feeling (T and F): Some people typically draw conclusions or make judgments dispassionately and analytically; others weigh the human factors or societal import and make judgments with personal conviction as to their value. These two styles of decision-making are called thinking or feeling, respectively.

Judgment and Perception (J and P): Finally, some people prefer to collect only enough data to make decisions before setting on a direct path to a goal and typically stay on that path. Others are finely attuned to changing situations, alert to new developments that may require a change of strategy, or even a change of goals. These two styles are called the preferences for judgment or perception, respectively.

Hence, there are 16 possible configurations, as shown in Table 1. If the MBTI results show that a person is ISTP, then the terminology is to suggest that the person prefers ISTP.

Table 1: The 16 MBTI types and their distribution among the US adult population ISTJ ISFJ INFJ INTJ 11.60% 13.80% 1.50% 2.10% ISTP ISFP INFP INTP 5.40% 8.80% 4.40% 3.30% ESTP ESFP ENFP ENTP 4.30% 8.50% 8.10% 3.20% ESTJ ESFJ ENFJ ENTJ 8.70% 12.30% 2.50% 1.80% MATERIALS AND METHODS

The MBTI was used as an instrument to sort personality types of engineering students at both King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in Saudi Arabia and University of Western Ontario in Canada.

Canadian engineering students: The type distribution of 235 Canadian students from all engineering programs in their final graduating year 2004 at the University of Western Ontario is showed in Table 2.

Table 2: Type distribution of Canadian engineering students, (N = 235) ISTJ ISFJ INFJ INTJ N = 51 N = 6 N = 4 N = 14 21.70% 2.60% 1.70% 6.00% ISTP ISFP INFP INTP N = 19 N = 4 N = 8 N = 11 8.10% 1.70% 3.40% 4.70% ESTP ESFP ENFP ENTP N = 11 N = 2 N = 9 N = 30 4.70% 0.90% 3.80% 12.80% ESTJ ESFJ ENFJ ENTJ N = 45 N = 4 N = 5 N = 12 19.10% 1.70% 2.10% 5.10% The sample distribution is similar to other samples found in engineering majors at different universities across the United States (2) and Canada (3).


The results show that ISTJ, ESTJ and ENTP compose over 50% of the sample, thus significantly over-represented; whereas ESFP, ESFJ, ISFP, INFJ and ENFJ are all particularly under-represented in that group. The study found more introverts (I = 50%) than extroverts (E = 50%); slightly more sensing (S = 60%) than intuitive (N = 40%) types; significantly more thinking (T = 82%) than feeling (F = 18%) types; and less perceiving (P = 40%) compared to judgment (J = 60%) types.

Saudi Arabian engineering students: Our subjects comprise a group of engineering students attending the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals. Ninety-six engineering students were invited to participate in the study and were administered the MBTI (Form G) to determine their personality types. The type distribution of these students is shown in Table 3.

Table 3: Type distribution of Saudi Arabian engineering students, (N = 96) ISTJ ISFJ INFJ INTJ N = 7 N = 3 N = 7 N = 15 7.30% 3.10% 7.30% 15.60% ISTP ISFP INFP INTP N = 2 N = 1 N = 6 N = 6 2.10% 1.00% 6.30% 6.30% ESTP ESFP ENFP ENTP N = 2 N = 7 N = 3 N = 11 2.10% 7.30% 3.10% 11.50% ESTJ ESFJ ENFJ ENTJ N = 11 N = 2 N = 4 N = 9 11.50% 2.10% 4.20% 9.40% This study has shown that ESTJ, INTJ, ENTP and ENTJ compose almost 50% of the sample, therefore, over-represented. On the other hand, ISTP, ESTP, ISFP and ESFJ are all particularly underrepresented in this sample. This research also found almost the same proportion of introverts (I = 49%) than extroverts (E = 51%) types; fairly less sensing (S = 36%) than intuitive (N = 64%); significantly more thinking (T = 66%) than feeling (F = 34%); and slightly more judging (J = 60%) compared to perception (P = 40%) type.

Although there are many similarities in the type distribution of Canadian...

To continue reading