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Do You Know Your Students'
'True Colors'?

Using True Colors, teachers, coaches, and administrators can learn about their personality types as well as those of their students and colleagues. This strategy shows teachers how they can base lessons and teaching styles on students' needs, one school principal tells Education World. "We have never tried to educate everyone until recently," he says, and True Colors helps do that. True Colors can also help students understand teachers and help teachers work better with one another. Included: Links to the True Colors site and descriptions of personality types.

Knowing the number of blues, oranges, golds, and greens in a classroom can help a teacher plan lessons and manage a class.

No, that is not part of a classroom decorating plan; those colors represent personality types determined by the True Colors system, developed by Don Lowry. Once a student's main color has been identified, along with the character traits that go with that color, teachers can adapt their teaching to the student's learning style and personality. When students know what color their teacher is, they can better understand him or her.


Lowry developed the True Colors program in 1979, after conducting research with more than 20,000 people, according to Connie Jennings, assistant training director for True Colors Communication Group. The basis for True Colors is work done by David Keirsey, who adapted the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a standardized test used to identify personality types.

True Colors has trained more than 4,000 people nationwide, as well as people in Canada and other countries, to teach others how to use True Colors, Jennings says. The two-and-a-half day training to become an instructor costs $750; materials for students cost about $5 per child and about $16 per adult. A half-day workshop with a True Colors instructor working with a group costs $1,500.

True Colors sorts people into four colors, although no one is exclusively one color. The system uses the following colors to represent specific personality types:

  • Gold: These are people who tend to be orderly, dependable, thrive on structure, and enjoy helping others; most teachers are golds, according to True Colors information.
  • Blue: They are sensitive, empathetic, loyal, and enthusiastic.
  • Green: These are the analytical, logical, and intellectual types; they become irritated with drill and routine.
  • Orange: Generally, they are people who are active, competitive, energetic, and impulsive. They seek variety and dislike rules.

People determine what their main color is by taking an assessment test, during which they indicate whether certain characteristics are similar or dissimilar to them. They also review cards that have pictures of mimes portraying certain characteristics on one side and colors on the other. Participants collect the cards showing characteristics that best represent their personalities. Besides having a main color, everyone has aspects of other colors, or traits, in their personalities as well.


Several educators and retired educators say they have used True Colors not only to help teachers relate to their students but also to help staff members work together more effectively.

Clifford Gillies, a retired high school principal in Washington, says he used True Colors to match teachers and students based on learning styles, to pair advisers with students, and to help coaches work with athletes.

"I recommend it highly," Gillies tells Education World. "I've seen it lead to more productive students who have higher motivation levels and higher test scores."

Another former teacher and administrator from Washington, Ann Kashiwa, says an eighth-grade teacher with whom she worked changed her teaching strategies after using True Colors. "She had mostly oranges in her class," Kashiwa, who also is a True Colors instructor, explains. "She developed more active, hands-on activities."

Robert Adams, a principal in an alternative elementary school in the Houston Independent School District and an instructor for True Colors, says teachers today need to be more cognizant of their students' learning styles to be effective.

"I find that the day of the teacher who sits back and is all-knowing is gone," Adams tells Education World. "The kids won't stand for it. They won't just accept what a teacher says. They want a reason to do something."

True Colors shows teachers how they can base their lessons and teaching styles on children's needs, rather than requiring that all students adjust to a teacher's personality, according to Adams. Teachers should plan two or three activities in a day that engage all personality types.

Knowing a child's personality type also can help a teacher decide how to respond if the child has a problem at home, Adams adds. "The type of nurturing a child needs depends on what color he or she is."

Adams also uses True Colors with faculty members to help them work together better. After the teachers identify their colors and traits, they meet with others who are the same color and analyze the pros and cons of their working styles. Then they mix with other "colors" and reflect on that, Adams explains. The experience teaches staff what they can expect from different personality types and how they can react to those types.


Among the other benefits Kashiwa sees in True Colors is that it promotes tolerance and communication among people. "It provides a language of civility," Kashiwa says. "It has implications for relationships and deeper understandings of where people are coming from. It shows that you can both be correct; you can start to look at a person in a different light."

Students of True Colors also are told to avoid "color bashing" -- blaming their own personality type or someone else's when something isn't working out, Kashiwa adds. "We emphasize that we all are made up of all colors [personality traits], and people should develop their other colors," she notes. "In order to be successful in life, you have to draw on all your colors."