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The Big Five Personality Traits and Their Relevance to Educators

Updated on July 23, 2015

Big Five is not just a sports department store. The Big Five factors are the main areas of personality: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism (or OCEAN). These trait clusters are used to describe people and determine their interests, constitutions, and inclinations. While the tests for the Big Five traits might not be accurate, there tend to be certain characteristics that people share when they score similarly.

When using these trait clusters to describe people, one might see that certain characteristics might be more appropriate for certain occupations. This Hub will discuss which areas would allow for a person to thrive as an educator.

Openness - This includes general appreciation and/or tolerance of a variety of things, including arts and cultures, ideas, feelings, experiences, and more. This distinguishes the creative and adventurous from the traditional. They are generally more likely to be more willing to try new things. Lower scores on the tests mean that people are more conventional, and prefer to have things laid out rather than vague, and the familiar rather than new. Change does not bode well with them.

Educators would need to score higher and be more open while teaching. Teaching may require different methods and ideas in order to get an idea across, tolerance of different cultures and backgrounds of students of what they are teaching about, and ideas about fun lesson plans. If something doesn't work out the way they plan, they need to be willing to try something different, especially if a student suggests something else.

Teachers who have openness are:

  • full of ideas
  • quick to understand ideas of concepts, even the abstract
  • have a good vocabulary and know difficult words
  • are creative and have a great imagination
  • take time to reflect

Conscientiousness - This includes self-discipline and drive toward accomplishment. It also means planning rather than spontaneity, and controlling random impulses. Conscientious people tend to be seen as intelligent and diligent, but they can also be considered perfectionists and workaholics.

Teachers may easily be seen as conscientious if they work late hours planning lessons or spending time after school tutoring a child to make sure they get it right. College professors may spend much time with a student working on a research project. They may have a drive to be the best educator, or ensure that the students get high scores or awards. Educators who are conscientious are:

  • prepared
  • precise and orderly
  • on schedule
  • diligent

Extraversion - The extraverted are full of energy and optimism, and love being around other people. They are excitable, interested, action-oriented people who are comfortable with, say, leadership roles.

The opposite are introverted people, who would prefer to keep to themselves rather than engage with the outside world. This doesn't necessarily mean that they are shy or dull; they just do not feel the need to be so enthusiastic and involved.

Teachers should certainly be extraverted if they want to engage students; an educator's excitement should be able to rub off onto a student. A teacher should be willing to take the lead and do what it takes to teach a lesson effectively. Teachers are:

  • comfortable around others (including students and their families)
  • easy to talk to and easy to talk with
  • willing to be the center of attention

Agreeableness - These people are easy to get along with, compassionate and cooperative as well as trusting and empathetic. They care about others and tend to be giving, helpful, and willing to compromise. They are also optimistic as they have much faith in humankind.

The opposite are disagreeable people who don't trust others and care more about themselves. They may be seen as cold, skeptical, and stubborn.

Clearly, teachers are more agreeable; while their goal is not to get along with others no matter what, they care about the well being of others and want the best for their students, even if it means discipline. They are:

  • humanitarian
  • caring and compassionate
  • sympathetic
  • generous

Neuroticism - This includes the proclivity to feel negative emotions such as anger, sadness, or frustration. They are more prone to stress and may misinterpret things easily. This state can last for a while, which may result in negative reactions.

Teachers should not be neurotic; rather, they should be able to deal with stress and more open so they won't misinterpret the actions and statements of students, who may not understand or know better. They should also be optimistic in case if something doesn't go as planned. If a teacher is perturbed easily, it can undermine the foundation of a class.


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    • Raine Law Yuen profile image

      Raine Law Yuen 3 years ago from Cape Town

      Nice to have an acronym to remember when working with kids. Nicely written, thanks I enjoyed this.

    • profile image

      Consolacion Navidad 6 years ago

      my eldest had a very terrible experience with his first grade teacher. she was having negative feelings about school. this was very traumatic for our family, we then decided to homeschool our kids. she is getting better now and thank God she does not withdraw from crowds.

    • profile image

      lOR lARSON 7 years ago

      A great research-based "Big 5" type personality assessment AND MORE :

    • profile image

      Beau James 7 years ago

      Very good insight, and plenty more insightfull comments! You can thank Maslow for his structure of inferior/superior feelings about personality. Why debate the varieties of extroverts and introverts? Some extroverts feed off of energy and others simply enjoy attention. Some introverts maintain/gain energy from choosing the less compromising action. Stimulation has little to do with it as people are not white lab rats whose behavoir is decided only by objective observation. Let's loosen up a litte :) Glass has some good points.

    • profile image

      matt x 7 years ago

      Guest, that is incorrect. Extroverts gaining energy from social experience is a property of extroversion not what defines it!

      Extroverts gain energy from being social because they seem to have become wired through biology and experience to receive pleasure from social experience. They may even have less reactivity to external stimuli and therefore seek more of it.

      Introverts loose energy from demanding social situations because it becomes over stimulating.

      Some where in the middle may be best for education, or even slightly towards extreme extrovert

    • profile image

      Guest 7 years ago

      Sigh... Extroverts are people who gain energy from being around others. Introverts are people who gain energy from being alone.

      It has nothing to do with being outgoing.

      An introvert is **not dependent** on building energy from being with others and is therefore not dependent on the class or other faculty to give her energy to spend.

      An outgoing teacher is great. An extrovert? Not the best mix for a classroom.

    • glassvisage profile image

      glassvisage 7 years ago from Northern California

      Thank you all for your comments!

      Nunning, this is a good comment. I would say that many teachers I have had have been introverts to an extent, but I do feel you must possess aspects of extroversion in order to be willing to teach, engage, and be comfortable.

    • profile image

      Nunning 7 years ago

      Not sure why so many people who write these articles don't feel the need to actually understand Jung's definition of "Extraversion" before they make simplistic statements like "Teachers need to be extraverted to engage students". The best teachers I have seen are INTOVERTS. They are intense and highly engaging.

    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 7 years ago

      This was a really great post and applying it to the teaching profession was an important and relevant aspect

    • PassinItAlong profile image

      PassinItAlong 7 years ago

      Insightful hub!

      I should change my neurotic ways=)

    • profile image

      Lionel Bracken 7 years ago

      Thanks for this - I'm a fairly new educator and am grateful for any and all thought-provoking articles. I like how you break it down - and it certainly helps me think about the ways in which I can focus on developing latent traits to improve my skills in the classroom. Thanks again!

    • profile image

      electric go kart 7 years ago

      Now this is a real good hub. thanks! Such a wonderful writing you have got.

    • profile image

      ASHISH 7 years ago

      I have readout your article which is good for educators .I have started SEO for tutoring site since fifteen day's.

    • Chad A Taylor profile image

      Chad Taylor 8 years ago from Somewhere in Seattle...

      I am glad I read this

    • Nick's thoughts profile image

      Nick Easton 8 years ago from Westfield PA

      I'm curious> Are people with the Neurotistic personality usually diagnosed as having Bi-Polar disorder?

    • Mary T. profile image

      Mary T. 8 years ago from Greater Cleveland

      Another source I really enjoyed lerning about personalities through is the book Positive Personality Profiles by Dr. Robert Rohm.  It is very insightful to understanding other people.  He actually discusses the relationship between a "high I" child (hyperactive, very social) and a "C-type" teacher (detailed, organized, orderly).  I think more teachers need to learn to relate to students and understand the personalities of their students.  Good hub! 

    • profile image

      wayne5800 8 years ago

      Good information and well written but how about the students personalities affect educational process e.g. classroom behavior


    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 8 years ago from Chicago

      I would do well on openness and agreeableness.  Good information and well written.  Thanks!