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The Big Five Personality Traits and Their Relevance to Educators

Updated on March 2, 2019
“caring teacher” by boletin via stock.xchng
“caring teacher” by boletin via stock.xchng | Source

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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