Great expectations: four writing tendencies for actionable self-knowledge




writing, expectations, identity


We all know that writing for publication is a valuable activity and one that many of us aspire to. We have previously presented it as a form of liberatory practice for Learning Development (Syska and Buckley, 2022) showing how it allows us to shape and develop our ideas as part of a wider conversation in LD, and how in doing so it helps to build the field and our own professional profiles. Yet many of us struggle to write. We explored some of the reasons behind this in a small study and although lack of time is consistently cited as a factor, we believe the root of the issue lies in managing the expectations we have for ourselves alongside those that others have for us and, most crucially, how we respond to those.


In her book The Four Tendencies, Gretchen Rubin identified that internal and external expectations, enmeshed with our particular predisposition when it comes to responding to tasks, go far to explain ‘why we act and why we don’t act’ (Rubin, 2017, p.12). While her Tendencies relate to the four possible combinations of meeting or not meeting inner and outer expectations generally, we have translated this specifically to writing as a way of understanding why many people struggle to write and how they can be supported. The four writing tendencies we have identified – Strivers, Pragmatists, Actualisers and Freelancers – have their own blocks to writing, but also have their own strategies for effectively overcoming those blocks. In this presentation we therefore outlined the nature of the four writing tendencies, helped participants identify their own, and showed how self-knowledge can have a significant impact on our approach to writing, which we can then pass on to our students.

Author Biographies

Carina Buckley, Southampton Solent University

Carina Buckley is currently Instructional Design Manager at Solent University and a Principal Fellow of AdvanceHE. An active advocate for LD institutionally, regionally, nationally and internationally, Carina has held posts as Co-Chair and Treasurer for the Association for Learning Development in HE (ALDinHE) and is a prolific author, editor and collaborator.

Alicja Syska, University of Plymouth

Alicja Syska is a hybrid academic, combining the roles of Learning Developer and Lecturer in Education and History at the University of Plymouth. She is interested in the processes involved in writing, especially for publication, and its impact on professional identity.


Rubin, G. (2017) The four tendencies: the indispensable personality profiles that reveal how to make your life better (and other people’s lives better, too). London: Two Roads.

Syska, A., and Buckley, C. (2023, forthcoming) Learning Developers as writers: The Four Tendencies framework to get writing. In: How to Be a Learning Developer in Higher Education: Critical Perspectives, Community and Practice. Routledge.

Syska, A., and Buckley, C. (2022) Writing as liberatory practice: unlocking knowledge to locate an academic field, Teaching in Higher Education, 28(2), 439-454.




How to Cite

Buckley, C. and Syska, A. (2023) “Great expectations: four writing tendencies for actionable self-knowledge”, Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education, (29). doi: 10.47408/jldhe.vi29.1129.

Most read articles by the same author(s)

1 2 3 4 > >> 

Similar Articles

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 > >> 

You may also start an advanced similarity search for this article.