Pupil Services: True Colors Testing

Glen Dawursk, Jr.

April 8, 2007

The job description for the assistant principal for most schools today is to be the primary disciplinarian for the school.  Unfortunately for most administrators, discipline does not rank as the most favorite of responsibilities.  It is draining, at times emotional, and most often tedious as the same students seem to file through the office on a reoccurring basis.  For most administrators, it is simply a rough, uncomfortable stepping stone on the path toward being a “real principal.” This was my opinion and role for most of the past year.  As the assistant principal or Dean of Students of a grade 6 through 12, 300+ Milwaukee Public charter school, I have found that my dealing with students has included all of those feelings.  It is not easy to be the administrator of absolute truth and the enforcer of rules and consequences – but never-the-less, I have found a certain amount of contentment in my position.  Why?  Simply stated, my desire changed.  At first, I was frustrated with students shuffling through my office over and over again. I felt like a police officer ticketing students for their multiple offenses. However after several weeks, I realized that my role was to provide “assistance” and enhance a student’s education in the same capacity that other pupil services provide assistance and enhancement to a student.  As the disciplinarian, my service is not simply to offer “consequence” for rules broken, but rather to encourage and mentor children toward positive behavioral modification.  


As any teacher or parent knows, the most effective means to modify behavior or to make a dramatic impact upon a child is to make a connection with them first.  This connection might be through a common interest which develops into a mentorship relationship; but most often, it is through an understanding and honest appreciation of the student’s personality and a willingness to speak to them within their personality traits.  We have seen the effectiveness of testing students for their learning modality and then teaching within that modality.  In the same way, knowing the personality and temperament traits of a student can also help a teacher or administrator deal more effectively with a student.  A method I have used effectively over the past few years in my classroom is a personality/temperament testing called “True Colors.”  According to a recent research study on a variation of True Colors, it was found to show “considerable merit in precisely assessing and defining psychological types and temperament theory.” (Whichard) It has also been linked to other personality testings (MBTI and DISC) and has been shown to be as effective with a minimal amount of testing.


True Colors is a personality/temperament test that I modified for my classroom and recently started using with the students whom I now discipline.  I first learned about this assessment tool at a teacher’s conference about 10 years ago and I have been intrigued with it ever since.  Centuries ago Hippocrates identified that people were at stages within four different personalities.  When we consider that our students are at different stages within different personalities, it is no wonder that there are regular “roadblocks” when educating and disciplining our students.  “These four different types are different in fundamental ways. They want different things. They have different motives, needs, and drives. They analyze, conceptualize, understand, and learn differently. These differences create natural barriers to interpersonal communication, making understanding between people of different types difficult.” (Keirsey)  If we could better understand each others’ unique personality, we could better mentor our students toward positive behavioral changes.  In addition, there is significant research which also shows a connection that these personality patterns are also keys to an individual’s self-esteem.


The True Colors testing was initially developed by Don Lowry.  His purpose was to simplify the personality/temperament theory work of Dr. David Keirsey, author of Please Understand Me and the family team of Katherine and Isabel Briggs-Myers, originators of the MBTI - Myers-Briggs Type Indicator testing.    Historically we find that the Briggs-Myers test was based upon the 1921 work of Carl Jung in his book Psychological Type.  Jung was one of the first modern psychologist to explain the personalities Hippocrates had identified.  In his book, Jung explained and compared the significant characteristics of these individual personalities.  Because of this connection, True Colors and Briggs-Myers are often referred to as Jungian Type Theory.


True Colors has been modified and tweaked for many different professions.  I have created my own variation of the testing based upon subsequent workshops I attended.  Unfortunately, I do not have the names of workshop leaders or presenters with whom I can credit my adaptations.   I have presented this assessment variation at a number of youth conferences and workshops. 


The basic concept of True Colors is the identification of common personality traits and behaviors and the application of how to use them in a particular setting.  Generally I give a copy of four different personality descriptions first.  These descriptions are a simplified description for the ones Hippocrates may have described centuries earlier.  While Myers-Briggs identified and characterized 16 different personalities, Lowry divided the personalities into just four personalities which he labeled as colors: Gold, Orange, Green and Blue.  For my use, I have adapted the following phrases to describe each personality color.


I am conventional.  I am the pillar of strength and have high respect for authority.

I like to establish and maintain policies, procedures, and schedules.  I have a strong sense of right and wrong.  I am naturally parental and dutiful.  I do things that require organization, dependability, management, and detail.   I need to be useful and to belong. I am the sensible, stable backbone of any group. I believe that work comes before play. I value home, family, status, security, and tradition.  I seek relationships that help me ensure a predictable life.  I am caring, concerned, and loyal.  I show concern through the practical things I do.



I am courageous.  I act on a moment's notice. I see life as a roll of the dice, a game of chance.  I need stimulation, freedom, and excitement.  I am a natural leader, troubleshooter, and performer. I like to do things that require variety, results, and participation.  I often enjoy using tools.  I am competitive and bounce back quickly from defeat. I value action, resourcefulness, and courage.  I am generous, charming, and impulsive.  I show affection through physical contact.



I am compassionate.  I am always encouraging and supporting.  I am a peacemaker, sensitive to the needs of others. I am a natural romantic. I like to do things that require caring, counseling, nurturing, and harmonizing.  I have a strong desire to contribute and to help others lead more significant lives.  I am poetic and often enjoy the arts. I value integrity and unity in relationships.  I am enthusiastic, idealistic, communicative, and sympathetic.  I express my feelings easily.



I am conceptual.  I have an investigative mind, intrigued by questions like, "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?"  I am an independent thinker, a natural nonconformist, and live life by my own standards. I like to do things that require vision, problem solving, strategy, ingenuity, design, and change. Once I have perfected an idea, I refer to move on to a new challenge. I value knowledge, intelligence, insight, and justice. I enjoy relationships with shared interests.  I prefer to let my head rule my heart.  I am cool, calm, and collected.  I do not express my emotions easily. 

 Once a person has chosen whose personality they feel they most represent, then I test them with a simple word category test.  They simply evaluate the list of words in each row, and then put them in the order of “Most like me to Least” using numbers 4 for most, 3 for next closest, 2 for next and 1 for the list least.  They continue through each row numbering them accordingly.  When they have finished all the rows, they simply add the columns at the bottom.  I then tell them what category goes with which color or personality.  I have included a copy of the actual worksheet I adapted for my use.  I also have attached a copy of my power point presentation. 


If I test a person individually, then I stop here; however, if I am testing a classroom or other large group, I separate the groups into their primary color.  Next, I give each group a large piece of cardboard, pencils, a box of markers and some pieces of masking tape.  Their assignment is: “As a group, design an amusement park in 15-20 minutes, tape it on the wall and be ready to explain it to the group.”   It becomes apparent how differently the groups think, process information, and design it on paper.  Generally the Gold’s are very detail orientated including parking lots.  The Greens usually only use a pencil and use mostly text.  The Oranges like to draw and use lots of color and are the most unrealistic of the groups.  The Blues always remember comfort details like bathrooms, first aid, handicap parking and diaper changing areas. 


In a number of workshops I attended during the past 5 years, I have taken the following notes about each of the personalities:



·       This personality accounts for 12-14% of the population; 70% are woman. This personality is often referred to as the “Hallmarks” as these people are most likely to send a card to someone.  They write cards and also appreciate getting cards. They are flexible, love people, focus well and like to serve.  They give the most “strokes” and also need to receive the most strokes.  Their goal is to be with people.  They are very introspective and ask questions like “Who am I – Who am I really.” This group buys into the True Colors testing results the most.  Blues are the “catapults” – they see potential and motivate others. They can often be misunderstood for being nosey because they always want to know how a person is doing.  They ask about a person’s family and they really want to know – it is not just chit-chat to them.  They learn best by pleasing others.  This personality lends itself to never having a lot of money because blues are always spending it on others.  Blues usually need to go shopping with other blues.  They want to connect.



·        This personality accounts for12-14% of the population.  They love knowledge, research, solving problems, data, philosophy, solutions and blue prints.  To this personality, there never is enough time or data; they always want more information.  Members of this personality usually include: scientists, mid level to top management execs, and CEO’s; 80% of all professors are greens.  A green professor loves when students argue or disagree with him.  They love debate.  They are, however, bored easily.  Greens are good planners but not the best implementers; instead, greens like to develop the solutions or blue prints and allow others to complete the work; they set the vision.   Greens often question everything; always asking: “why?”   They desire the best answers and are not easily satisfied with a solution.  They find it hard to put closure on things.  They will continue to prove it is the best one.  This personality can multi-task well, but a green will be the personality most likely to lose the car keys or where they parked the car at the mall.  Greens are highly introverted and only take calculated risks.  They do not share their feelings or emotions easily with others.



·       This personality accounts for 38% of the population.  This group turns the lights on at work, makes the coffee, makes sure budget is intact – basically they get things done.  Golds are the worker bees. Without golds, everything stops!  They learn best by instruction and are the ones most likely to raise their hand even in college.  Most church workers and community workers are golds.  80% of all elementary school teachers are also gold.  However, this personality is a rotten risk taker; they like security.  Golds often make lists and enjoy highlighters.  They entrust schools, prefer laws (most police & judges are gold) and like structure within a family.  They are the most family orientated of the four groups.  Golds also make more money “totally” than any other group.  Golds are the group most likely to organize their sock drawer.  They like things to be neat and in order.



·       This personality accounts for 36% of the population.  Oranges do things quickly, but they usually turn out pretty well.  The difference from a gold is that oranges always do it their own way.  They are not known for following rules or established systems.  Oranges are also very celebrative – they are the “party” group.  When they set their minds to accomplish something, they really like doing it.  This personality is also very hands-on physical.   They like activity.  They are experiential and generally prefer no restraints.  Oranges are mostly in creative arts and due to the activity attribute, most physical education teachers are orange.  Oranges are very competitive, spontaneous, risk takers, adventurous, happy and have a great sense of humor; they sincerely like to make people laugh.  This group, like blues, are very giving, but are not looking for something in return or desiring a lasting relationship as a result of “giving”  -- however, in life, they do want to see results.  Oranges are especially considered an organized mess.  Their desks are piles and seem senseless, yet they know where everything is.


While entertaining, True Colors testing clearly shows a child’s unique personality and temperament.  It also shows us how to approach, communicate, educate and even discipline a child more effectively within their natural framework.  A student who is gold will respond better to guidelines than an orange.  A blue will respond better to an emotional plea while a green will expect rational and reasoning.  The True Colors testing is currently being done in the Green Bay and Wausau school districts in their middle schools and I have proposed testing all the students at my school next year.  Any tool which will help me as a teacher and administrator to better understand the personality and temperament of a child should be considered.  It is hard to mentor a child.  It is even harder to mentor them when you are the main disciplinarian.  I hope that by providing this testing, I will be better equipped to connect and service my students and use consequences more attuned toward positive behavioral changes.  



Sources Consulted



Keirsey, David. Please Understand Me. (1967) Taken on April 1, 2007 from <http://www.mytruecolors.com/truecolorstory.asp>.

True Colors Assessment, Taken March 30, 2007 from <http://www.truecolors.org/>.

True Colors, Inc., The Theory Behind True Colors. Taken on April 1, 2007 from <http://www.mytruecolors.com/truecolorstory.asp>.

Whichard, Judith A. Reliability and Validity of True Colors. (June 2006), Taken March 30, 2007 from <http://www.truecolors.org/>.