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Behavior Stlyles and Student Achievement

Ryan Piraneo

By: John Birch, CEO

“No one behavior style is better than another, they are just different” – Bill Bonnstetter


Is your child totally bored with school?  Is getting them to complete their homework assignments and studying for tests like pulling teeth?  The answer may lie in their behavior style.

What we have found from over 14 years in running weekend academic programs is that our entire educational system, especially since the “No Child Left Behind Act”, is geared primarily towards the more introverted students. It benefits those who are able to sit quietly for long periods of time listening intently to teachers lecturing about a given subject.  Your extroverted student’s problem may very well be boredom.  They typically have a great deal of difficulty to keep their attention focused on the task at hand often resulting in excessive talking with their classmates, looking out the window, speaking out of turn and other behaviors that are not conducive to learning and that the teacher may find disruptive.  The average extroverted student doesn’t mean to be disruptive; they are just bored and are trying to stay awake.  This scenario, combined with very little hands on activity, can lead to active disengagement.

The Behavior Model that we have been using with students in afterschool and weekend programs for over 14 years is called DISC.  The DISC Model was developed based on a book by Harvard Psychologist William Marston titled “The Emotions of Normal People”, published in 1928.  Marston identified 4 types of normal people: the Dominant, the Influencer, the Steady Relator and the Cautious/Concise.  Marston’s work is not based on Personality, but Observable Behavior that those around us can see.  DISC is now a leading behavioral model used in not only business and industry, but in educational settings as well.  There are two basic credo’s that I reinforce when instructing students in the use of the DISC model: “No one behavior style is better than another, they are just different” and “It’s not what style you are, it’s what you do with it.”  There is a considerable amount of information showing that there is a significant role for all of the behavior styles as each one brings some innate talents to the team that the other team members may not have.

Following are some tendencies for the different behavior styles that you may see in your student:

Dominant (Extroverted): 

Descriptors may include: directness, adventuresome, bold, results oriented, daring and competitive, talkative, and organized.  Your high “D” student typically likes to be the boss, talks before thinking, has little patience, may not listen well and will often take risks that others won’t. Famous examples are Steve Jobs, Hillary Clinton, Kanye West, LeBron James and most likely Donald Trump. Many famous business leaders are high “D’s”.

When communicating with your high “D” they appreciate you being brief, direct and to the point without a lot of small talk and they like to make their own decisions.  Power and control are very important to them.

 Influencer (Extroverted):

Descriptors may include: persuasiveness, trusting, sociable (often to the point of exasperation), charming, optimistic, and enthusiastic.  They love to talk on their cell phone to their 5,000 closest friends.  They may have trouble with time management, with task completion and may be totally disorganized. They much rather prefer the company of others as facts and figures can quickly bore them.   Famous examples are Angelina Jolie, Taylor Swift, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Fallon and Kelly Ripa. 

When communicating with your high “I” they appreciate socialization, having fun, having someone ask for their feelings and opinions.  It’s important to “show them the love” as being loved and liked is what they need the most.  Most top sales people and politicians are high “I’s”.

Steady Relator (Introverted):

Descriptors may include: patience, sincerity, relaxed, logical, steady, kind, gentle, and strong listening skills.  They appreciate harmony, security, structure, loyalty, teamwork and logic.  They may have trouble with possessiveness, may “tolerate” for too long, may hold a grudge and are usually very uncomfortable with change.  Trust is very important to them.  Famous examples are Mr. Rogers, Brad Pitt, Carrie Underwood and Scarlet Johannson.  A significant number of teachers and nurses are high “S’s”.

When communicating with your high “S”, take time and don’t interrupt. You should be patient, make sure you deliver what you promise, show an interest in them and don’t try to force them into a quick decision.  Be aware that they may hold all of their feelings inside.  What they need most is peace, stability and security.  We have found that over 45% of the population in the United States is Steady Relators.

Cautious/Concise (Introverted):

Descriptors may include: accurate, diplomatic, precise, high standards, courteous, and analytical.  Basically the high “C” student is looking for perfection and may get visibly upset if they don’t produce the perfection that they are looking for.  They are good with data and facts, critical discussions, complex problems, privacy, organizing and self-competition. They will typically not act until they have looked at data and have examined an argument from all sides.  They are also low risk takers and critical of themselves and others.  Many high “C’s” become doctors, scientists, mathematicians, chemists, engineers and computer programmers.

When communicating with your high “C” student, examine an argument from all sides (because they have), allow time for them to think and disagree on the facts, not the person.  You may have to work with them to let them know that it’s OK to make a mistake and that there is no such thing as perfection.  Criticizing them will drive them to despair.



Each of the core behavior styles that we’ve discussed typically have their own ways of learning that help them reach their untapped potential:

High “D”

Processes information and makes decisions based on their “gut” feelings.  They learn best through discovering things for themselves especially hands on activities.  Instead of telling them that they must get an education so that they don’t become a failure in life, try to find their passion and then work with them to develop activities that take into account what they need to learn coupled with related activities that they might find exciting and interesting.

High “I”

Processes information and makes decisions based through talking out loud and/or brainstorming with others.   They may come to conclusions after listening to themselves describe the problem with other people.  They learn best through discussions, audio/visual aids.  “Say it and see it works the best.”  Encourage your high “I” student to form a study group.  However, make sure that the group keeps on task of studying or it will turn into a gab session, especially if other “I’s” are in the group.

High “S”

Processes information and makes decisions by logical analysis and a step-by-step process.  Making pro and con lists can help them move through procrastination.  They learn best throughreading the material beforehand, observing the process and then doing the task while being monitored for accuracy.  They much prefer to have reference materials available to them should questions arise.  Flowcharts can also be a very valuable part of the learning process for them.  Make sure that your “S” student asks the instructor for help if they are having difficulty learning new material and encourage your High “S” student to participate in classroom discussions, as their shyness may inhibit them from seeking the help that they need.  Unfortunately as they are so quiet, the instructor may see them as non-participative or unfamiliar with the materials.

High “C”

Processes information and makes decisions by simultaneously taking in all kinds of data and then arriving at their decisions based in a systematic and intuitive way.  They learn best through visual examples and pictures.  Advise them to tutor others as they will not only reinforce their own learning experiences and understanding of the subject matter, but they will also be building vital social skills that they may otherwise miss out on. Chances are, you may not have to worry much about your high “C” students spending the time studying, as they are searching for perfection in whatever they do.  However, do encourage them to make friends and have a social life as they may tend to devote a significant amount of time studying at the expense of their personal life.


Whatever your student’s behavior style may be, trying to make them something that they are not will not only be stressful for you, but may be destructive for them.  They are what they are.  However, with patience, you can help them adapt for appropriate behavior for the appropriate situation.  Try to never compare your child with another child as most likely they couldn’t be that person if they had to be.  Instead, understand your child’s behavior style and provide them with understanding and guidance accordingly.