Sunday, December 7, 2008

Left-brained learners

  • lots of reading,
  • writing,
  • assignments involving reasoning and analyzing,
  • attention to detail
  • quantitative methods,
  • linear, organized approach to lessons, and
  • a syllabus showing what will happen when.

Our educational system seems to favor a left-brain style, with an exception being activities that involve creativity.

Using both left-brain and right-brain activities is a way to reach both kinds of learners. For example:

  • Draw illustrations on the whiteboard, or ask students to draw them.
  • Show video clips and discuss them afterwards.
  • Use web-based learning since the web has lots of pictures and using it is not sequential.
  • Use a chat room for brainstorming ideas for projects, then use asynchronous communication to choose ideas and develop them further.
  • Assign students a final product or project that has a creative element as well as an analytical element.

Brain Dominance in education

This article reviews the concepts of Ned Herrmann’s Brain Dominance theory and instrument. Herrmann’s Whole Brain Model can be used to build learning experiences to enhance learning and make it more memorable for all participants.
Ned Herrmann’s Research
Ned Herrman's Whole Brain Model combines Roger Sperry's left/right brain theory and Paul MacLean's triune model (rational brain, intermediate brain and primitive brain) to produce a quadrant model of the brain. The quadrants are:
Left Cerebral (upper left)
Left Limbic (lower left)
Right Limbic (lower right)
Right Cerebral (upper right
As with the other brain models, each area has functions associated it to create a model of thinking and learning. Practitioners of HBDT use the following labels each quadrant for persons whose strongest preference is in that quadrant:
Left Cerebral: Theorists
Left Limbic: Organizers
Right Limbic: Humanitarians
Right Cerebral: Innovators

Theorists: These are people who like lecture, facts, and details, critical thinking, textbooks and readings, etc. The brain dominance for theorists is the upper left (cerebral).
Organizers: These are people who prefer to learn by outlining, checklists, exercises and problem solving with steps, policies and procedures. People with these preferences have lower left (limbic) brain dominance.
Innovators: Innovators prefer brainstorming, metaphors, illustrations and pictures, mind mapping and synthesis, and holistic approaches. The brain dominance for innovators is upper right (cerebral).Humanitarians: Prefer cooperative learning and group discussion, role-playing, and dramatization. Their brain preference is lower right (limbic)
Preferred Learning Activities
Knowledge of HBDT can help people in the training and education fields develop and deliver training that is more applicable to everyone and is also better remembered. Each quadrant has a preferred style of learning and preferences for particular types of learning activities. When the activity matches a learner’s preference, there is an increased probability that learning will occur. Below are some activities with the HBDI preference that prefers that activity shown in parentheses:
Precise definitions (theorist)
To-the-point, factual learnings (theorist)
Step-by-step instructions (organizer)
History, timelines (organizer)
Brainstorming or free association activities (innovator)
Visual or graphic mind-maps (innovator)
Use of personal impact stories (humanist)
Collaborative activities (humanist)
Frustrations in Learning
When training is biased mostly toward one HBDI preference, persons with other preferences will experience a great deal of frustration. Participants can check out mentally when the training environment has too many of the frustrations for their HDBI preference. Below are some of the types of frustrations people can experience. The HBDI preference that might experience that frustration is shown in parentheses after the frustration:
Vague, ambiguous instructions (theorist)
Inefficient use of time (theorist)
Too slow a pace (innovator)
Lack of overview/conceptual framework (innovator)
Disorganization, poor sequencing, hopping around (organizer)
Lack of practice time (organizer)
Impersonal approach or examples (humanist)
No sensory input; sterile learning climate (humanist)
Teaching & Learning Assumptions
The Whole Brain teaching approach starts with several teaching and learning assumptions that are very consistent with MBTI principles:
People have different preferred modes of thinking and learning
Those preferences influence how we:
process and store information
retrieve information
make meaning out of information
All learning groups are made up of people with different thinking style preferences, different ways of knowing, and different learning styles.
Effective learning is “whole brained”, taking advantage of the all the mental processes of the brain
Teachers and trainers typically design learning experiences that reflect their own thinking/learning preferences.
In light of the above, we need to re-examine all of our previous assumptions about teaching and learning
The content, design and delivery of each learning point must be whole brained to meet the diverse learning and thinking styles of the learners. This is achieved by “paraphrasing” the learning point in each of the different modes of the whole brain model.
Herman International has designed a training kit that helps developers and trainers pick activities to ensure whole brain training. The kit has cards with several learning activities for each HBDI preference. The idea is that each learning module or segment should have activities for each quadrant’s preferences. One recommendation is to pick two activities for each quadrant.
So a balanced training might look like this:
Agenda (quadrant B)
Overview (quadrant D)
Warm-up (quadrant C)
Factual lecture (quadrant A)
Concrete examples (quadrant B)
Brainstorming or mind-mapping (quadrant D)
Critical review of material (quadrant A)
Journaling or stories (quadrant C)
When teaching, managing and communicating are going well, they are most likely whole-brained. They also noted that when things don’t seem to be working, it’s likely we’ve forgotten one or more of the quadrants.
Correlation Myers-Briggs Type Indicator ®
As Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI®) enthusiasts might speculate, there is a correlation between MBTI® preference and HBDI preference. Sally Power, Jean Kummerow and Lorman Lundsten (1999) conducted multiple studies based on some previous work done by Power and Lundsten (1997). Figure 2 shows the relationships. The results were mixed, with the strongest correlations between Introverted Thinking and Cerebral Left (theorists) and Extraverted iNtuition and Cerebral Right (innovators).
Group Preferences
THE HBDI has been given to over one million people. Hermann has discovered that in groups of 15 or more with ‘normal’ characteristics, the group will be spread among the four quadrants. However, brain dominance data also indicate that people with similar occupations tend to have the same general profile. Data also show there is a strong and direct correlation between a person’s personal profile and his or her occupational profile, and his or her learning profile. This shows that it is essential to consider the uniqueness of the learning group when designing educational programs for the group.
HBD Instrument
Hermann Developed an instrument, the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument™ (HBDI) in 1979. The HBDI™ is a thinking styles assessment tool which allows a person to learn more about how his or her brain functions and thinking and learning preferences. The HBDI™ is the result of extensive validation and has been developed and modified taking into account the results of continuing brain research. Three examples of the rigorous validation for the HBDI™ are:
Validation studies of C. Victor Bunderson and James Olsen of Wicat and later by C. Victor Bunderson and Kevin Ho. Schadty and Potvin at the University of Texas carried out validation experiments in conjunction with these validation studies.
Through the research and experimentation of leaders in the field including Roger Sperry, Robert Ornstein, Henry Mintzberg, and Michael Gazzaniga.
Hundreds of EEG experiments carried out by Ned Herrmann.
Other features of the HBDI include:
The results of the scoring are free of value judgment and cultural bias.
The HBDI is adaptable and takes account of the fact that we can grow and change. This encourages many people to discover and design a pathway for change.

Herrmann, Ned, The Creative Brain, Insights into creativity, communication, management, education and self-understanding, The Ned Herrmann Group, 1995.
Herrmann, Ned, The Whole Brain Business Book, New YorkMcGrtaw-Hill, 1996.
Power, Sally J. and Lundsten, Lorman, Studies That Compare Type Theory and Lef-Brain-Right-Brain Theory, Journal of Psychological Type, Vol 43, 1997.
Power, Sally J, Kummerow, Jean M. and Lundsten, Lorman, A Herrmann Brain Dominance Profile Analysis of the Sixteen MBTI Types In a Sample of MBA Students, Journal of Psychological Type, Vol 49, 1999.


  • pictures, diagrams, charts, or graphs,
  • video,
  • talking about feelings,
  • social activities,
  • music,
  • attention to the "big picture," and
  • creative activities and projects.

Brain Dominance

Brain dominance refers to a preference for using one hemisphere of the brain over the other hemisphere. The left hemisphere of the brain is rational, analytical, and verbal, while the right hemisphere is holistic and intuitive, responsive to visual imagery. Brain dominance can be assessed with the Hemispheric Mode Indicator or with the Hermann Brain Dominance Instrument.

Once very popular, this view of the brain has fallen out of favor recently due to further research showing it is not quite as clear-cut as all that. However, considering these two opposites as preferred learning styles can be helpful.