A link to this TEDx presentation was recently posted by Jonathan in the comments of my "Fooled by Socionics" post.
My critique of this video will be similar to what I've been saying about typology for a long time.
It's really interesting to hear about individual differences that affect learning, and I will be excited to hear more about this. On the surface it would seem that the research conducted supports Jungian typology. Students are divided into types, and far-reaching differences in learning processes are discovered.
What this proves is that whatever algorithm was used to divide the students into groups (types) was to some degree predictive of their behavior when learning math. What is not clear is:
- The relationship between the algorithm used and the theory of Jungian typology. In other words, what assumptions were made in producing the algorithm that do not necessarily directly derive from the theory?
What I'm hinting at here is that the researchers' explanations of types may differ from those of other Jungian typologists, because the theory is basically unquantifiable. Different researchers might therefore end up with different divisions of schoolchildren with higher or lower predictive value.
- Is the algorithm used by the researchers actually the best possible one for the purposes of this study? In other words, is there another way of dividing up the children that would be even more predictive of their behavior when learning math?
Occasionally socionists in Ukraine and Russia produce similar kinds of studies which are often tantalizing, but always inconclusive. For typologists in general, the focus is to generate empirical support for the theory rather than the best possible predictive outcome. I don't have much respect for this approach anymore. Maybe it's okay for the early investigation stage of new hypotheses, but it's not okay for a mature theory.
What I mean is that if we have a method "A" that we suppose influences outcome "B," then what typologists always do is — "let's apply our A and see what B we get." They never focus on maximizing the outcome! That would be — "let's see what A will maximize B."
This is probably the single most important idea to take away from my recent posts about why I have left socionics behind. This is what science is all about, and typologists — some bluntly, others more subtly — resist it for whatever reason (laziness and boredom, overconfidence, lack of acceptance of such research among their reference group, lack of research funds, etc.).
Going back to the TEDx video, let's imagine the research was not to "see what this way of applying Jungian Typology can predict" but to "see what method we can find for grouping children into learning groups with the greatest predictive power."
They could even start off using their existing typological method just to get things going. Then, they would look at how these children responded to different math learning methods and environments. Then they would consider whether they might move some children from one group to another based on their observed behavior, or whether there were large enough differences within a single group to justify dividing it further. Then they would try to formulate the key characteristics separating one group from another. They would have to decide whether these characteristics were more discrete or continuous and at what threshold level a person might be switched from one group to another. Finally, they would work on developing the most effective method for dividing children into these learning groups.
At some point, they would have to deal with the problem of the 99 percentile and 1 percentile math students who learn so much faster or slower than the other people with their supposed learning style that it is simply impractical to leave them in the same group.
The method produced might be a 5-minute test instead of a hours-long talking session on the differences between types. Or it might be a brain scan or physiological test done while performing different tasks. Maybe the behavior of interest is so complex that, for now, the only way to confidently identify it is in the classroom, over a longer time span. This might even lead researchers to say — "let's just use our talking session on Jungian types plus the following additional tweaks."
At any rate, the method would be optimized for enhancing math learning and would not necessarily predict any of the other things that Jungian typology is supposed to predict. But it would be rock-solid and other researchers could take it and build upon it.