A web site for the developing language teacher

by Michael Berman

Based on the concept of evolutionary psychology, it can be argued that there are three main personality types depending on what we have inherited from our ancestors. The Warrior is forceful, resolute and organisational, the Settler is sociable, intuitive and adaptable, and the Nomad is restless, charismatic and innovative. What kinds of learners are your students and what are the classroom implications? That's what this article will focus on.

The Warrior needs to be in control and has drive, the ability and desire to manipulate others, speed of thought and the desire to take charge. The Settler is adaptable and able to solve problems, tactful, diplomatic and an effective communicator - often found in caring / nurturing professions. The Nomad is an individual who needs change, drama and excitement. They enjoy feelings of importance and they often spend considerable time attempting to be the centre of attention. We are all predominantly one of these types, as are the learners we work with, and a questionnaire to ascertain your type can be found in Terence Watts book listed in the bibliography below.

If you would like to get some idea of the category you fit into, count the number of times the letter 'F' appears in the following sentence:


If you counted correctly the first time, then you are probably a Warrior type. If you counted correctly the second time you read it, then you are more than likely a Settler, and if you counted incorrectly twice and needed to read it for a third time, then you are probably a Nomad.

When you decide on a course of action, it is important to bear in mind your major personality type and plan accordingly or to access the most appropriate type to give you the resources you need.

The mode in which you automatically think is likely to be the real you whereas the mode in which you act is probably the result of imprinted behaviour. There is often a conflict between the two and this needs to be resolved before we can function effectively.

One way of developing the other two aspects of your personality can be by making use of affirmations. Affirmations can be described as 'brain convincers' as they can be used to counter the infuriating little voice within which comes with its limiting self-beliefs. They can confuse our internal belief systems and displace negative attitudes with more positive ones. A changed image can lead to changed behaviour and this is why affirmations can be such a powerful tool.

Positive reinforcement and carefully chosen words can actually change the structure of the brain. An amine called seratonin plays a critical role. When there is positive reinforcement, seratonin is released simultaneously into the brain and the intestines inducing a sense of well-being and security.

When creating affirmations, there is a golden rule with a very helpful mnemonic device to remind you of it: KISS. It stands for Keep It Simple Stupid. In other words, the affirmations should be phrased as simply and as directly as possible. The subconscious loves simplicity!

Another option available to us is the use of guided visualisation and / or self-hypnosis. This entails creating pictures in your mind while following a script. The itinerary of the 'journey' is controlled but the content remains unique to each person taking part in the process. This is explored in depth in my books listed in the bibliography and also in Mark Fletcher's book.

In the classroom Warriors are likely to respond to challenges, for Settlers success breeds success so it is important to provide plenty of positive strokes, and Nomads are likely to get bored quickly so will respond favourably to a frequent change of activity. If each lesson you give can provide these three elements, then there is clearly more chance of reaching everyone in the group and of achieving effective results.

To conclude this article, there follows a story:


This is the story of three unfortunate bees whose curiosity got the better of them one sunny day when they fell into an open jam jar.

The first bee wasn't particularly concerned about his predicament because his partner had always rescued him from tricky situations in the past and he trusted that she would do so again. In fact, he'd grown to depend on her. So he just sat back in the jam and waited because he knew that he'd be all right. What happened to him? He died waiting.

The second bee kept climbing the slippery glass wall until he reached the rounded rim, then fell back down again. And the more times he fell, the more determined it made him. He was a fighter and he refused to give in. What happened to him? He died of exhaustion.

The third bee was different to the others and had never really fitted into the hive. In fact, he'd become a social outcast and lived a very solitary life. The other bees had found him to be rather strange and refused to have anything to do with him. Anyway, while his colleagues were otherwise occupied with their own attempts to escape, he chose to taste the jam and what do you know - he found he really liked it. So he ate and he ate and he ate until he'd licked the jar clean. And what happened to him? Well he died too, but he died of pleasure.

Which of the bees was the Nomad, which of the bees was the Settler, and which of the bees was the Warrior? And I wonder which of the bees you would have been - I will leave that for you to answer!


Berman M. "A Multiple Intelligences Road To ELT" Crown House 1998
Berman M. "The Power of Metaphor" Crown House 2000
Berman M. "Activating ELT Through Multiple Intelligences" NetLearn Publications 2001
Fletcher M. "Teaching for Success" English Experience 2000
Watts T. "Warriors, Settlers & Nomads" Crown House 2000


Michael Berman is currently a research student at the University of Wales, Lampeter, and working part-time as a teacher at Oxford House College in London. Publications include A Multiple Intelligences Road to an ELT Classroom and The Power of Metaphor for Crown House Publishing and The Shaman and the Storyteller for Superscript. Michael has been involved in TESOL for over thirty years and has given presentations at Conferences in Austria, Azerbaijan, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, and the Ukraine.



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