Last week I watched this passionate talk available on youtube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c0KYU2j0TM4 and it made me reflect upon my beliefs regarding the way teachers manage introverts in the classroom. In this video, Susan Cain talks about the way education has valued and rewarded natural born extroverts and how it affects students who tend to be more introverted.
Consider the classroom layout which aims to create group-oriented spaces meant for collaboration, interaction, and conversation. As the speaker notes in her talk, “Our most important institutions, our schools and our workplaces, they are designed mostly for extroverts and for extroverts’ need for lots of stimulation.” Given that scenario, I invite you now to reflect on the questions below and see how are you assessing this type of student in your classroom:
1) Do you give introverted students enough time to think before doing something or answering a question?
Introvert students are thinkers. Introverts are driven by personal reflection and assessment. Unlike extroverts, they do not need the social interaction of others. Introverts prefer planning out exactly what is to be said before saying it. They usually think before doing and they take way longer to respond comparing to extroverts.
2) Do you assign reading, writing or listening activities that can be completed individually or you tend to skip them because they are boring?
Introvert students enjoy assignments that they can complete alone such as reading, writing, or listening. They usually have strong critical thinking and reasoning skills. Introverts will typically sit back and listen to others (extroverts) discuss a topic. While one may not think that the introvert is participating, he or she is quietly processing and thinking through all of the information.
3) Do you often insisted that all students take part in the group discussion?
Introvert students may feel uncomfortable confronting a teacher or discussing their thoughts in a group. They do much better if not pressured to speak out but allowed to do so voluntarily at their own pace. Introverts can be social and find pleasure in being with others. However, they also need their own personal "down time" to think and recharge their minds.
4) How do you grade your students for class participation?
Introverted learners also tend to participate less in class, since they prefer to process ideas by thinking to themselves rather than by speaking to others. Introverts tend to speak in class only when they have processed an idea, rehearsed it, and prepared themselves to offer their idea to the group. This suggests their tendency is to listen to what others say in class, internally connect it to what they think about an idea, and only offer their thoughts when they believe that they have thought them through entirely. The difficulty with this style of learning is that it may not fit well with either traditional concepts of class discussion or traditional criteria for grading on oral participation. So, what can we do about it? Let’s consider that listening to what other people are saying and internally processing their comments means that introverts are often able to summarize a discussion or articulate an aspect of it that has been left out so, instead of asking their opinion about a topic, why not asking them to highlight the main ideas or saying the one they liked or disliked the most? Or why not presenting discussion questions ahead of time so that the introverted learner has an opportunity to prepare a response, incorporating student-led discussion in which students are asked to prepare questions and plan the structure of the discussion, and allowing time in the discussion for students to write down their thoughts or simply to process what has been said?
Jeanne Briggs, another acknowledged researcher, notes that “it is unlikely that merely grading for oral participation in class will force introverted learners to participate in discussion more often; instead, it is likely to result in feelings of frustration and failure when the introverted student believes that she/he is getting a lower grade for not participating enough. It is helpful for the teacher to make clear at the outset that quality as well as quantity of participation will be graded and to outline the things that she/he looks for as indicators of quality. Rather than try to find ways to encourage more participation from the students who are quiet, it is important for a professor to be careful that the contributions of introverts and extroverts are validated in similar ways so that introverts will feel drawn into the discussion and continue to contribute”. To read her article in full go to http://pages.uoregon.edu/munno/Learning/Introvert.html.