More on thinking styles from Robert Sternberg:
“A style is a preferred way of thinking. It is not an ability, but rather how we use the abilities we have. We do not have a style, but rather a profile of styles. People may be practically identical in their abilities and yet have very different styles. But society does not always judge people with equal abilities as equal. Rather, people whose styles match those expected in certain situations are judged as having higher levels of abilities, despite the fact that what is present is not ability, but fit between those people’s styles and the tasks they are confronting.
Often, the tasks people face could be arranged better to fit their styles, or they could modify their styles to fit the tasks. But if an attribution is made that the people do not have the requisite abilities, the people typically never even get a chance to change their approach.
Go to any high school or college reunion, and you will meet scores of people who went into the wrong job for themselves. They may have done what their guidance or career counselor told them to do, based on abilities or even interests. But many of them have found careers where they feel like they are at a dead end. Being at a dead end is often in the mind of the beholder, and one often feels at a dead end when the work one does is a misfit to the way in which one best uses the talents one has. Understanding styles can help people better understand why some activities fit them and others don’t, and even why some people fit them and others don’t.” (p.19)
“Styles are teachable. For the most part, people acquire their styles through socialiation. But it is also possible to teach styles.
One way to teach styles is by giving children or students tasks that require them to utilize the styles you want them to develop. That’s why I give my own students a wide variety of instructional activities – lectures, in-class discussions, small-group exercises, exams, papers, homework assignments, and the like. The more that people use a particular style, the more comfortable they become with its use.” (p.90)
“Styles matter. Moreover, they are often confused with abilities, so that students or others are thought to be incompetent not because they are lacking in abilities, but because their styles of thinking do not match those of the people doing the assessments. Especially in teaching, we need to take into account students’ styles of thinking if we hope to reach them.” (p.158)
“So-called gifted adults are probably, in large part, those whose styles match their patterns of abilities.” (p.159)
Ref: (emphases in blue bold, mine; italics in original) Robert J. Sternberg (c1997) Thinking Styles. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge