Connecting to Introverted Students: 4 Different Approaches

by | Nov 14, 2016

On the surface, introverted students don’t have much to offer, but if you know the reason behind this you’ll see it’s far from true. When creating a collaborative classroom, one of the biggest complaints about collaboration is that some members don’t “carry their own weight.” It’s a battle between extroverts vs. introverts, with extroverts monopolizing the discussion and gaining favour with the teacher.

Being introverted is different from being shy. While shyness expresses a “fear of social judgment with socializing being a difficult experience,” introversion is more about “the way we prefer to pay attention to and explore our lives, and therefore what tends to energize us.”

Consider this:

  • Introverts are energized by quiet and solitude; stimuli comes from within.
  • Extroverts are energized by noise and company of people; stimuli comes from the environment.
  • Introverts will scan their own heads to find their Aha! Moment. In class, introverts draw energy from very small groups and writing-based tasks. Their learning unfolds in chunks rather than short intense bursts.
  • Extroverts will scan the outside world to find their Aha! moment. In class, extroverts enjoy group-based learning and brainstorming.

To put it another way:

  • Introverts Think—Act—Think
  • Extroverts Act—Think—Act

It’s important to honor these differences rather than try to fix them. Instead of using coercion to force participation among introverted students, we must strive for “cultivating engagement from both camps. Rather than dichotomizing both ends of the introvert/extrovert spectrum, we must optimize.”

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From the Pros: Honouring the Introverted Student

From Huffington Post:

  • Create a quiet zone. Allow a place for students to sit alone, read, do a puzzle, etc. to re-energize.
  • Encourage interests. Contrary to popular belief, introverts tend to really speak up when they have the opportunity to share their interests. Find what interests them and get them talking about it.
  • Teach ALL kids to think first before answering. The kids who tend to answer a question immediately will easily overpower the introvert.  If everyone were taught to wait and think, the introvert might be able to formulate her thoughts and have a chance.
  • Use the buddy system. Pairing like-minded kids with similar interests and personalities helps introverted students find their voice.

From TeachHub:

  • Standardize introversion. Introversion is not abnormal, or something to be “fixed.” It is simply a preference, and people can learn to work with them.
  • Keep introverted students in your radar. While you don’t want to neglect the “gifted” kids, realize that introverts can be gifted in their own way. Don’t ignore the quiet ones.
  • Hands-on tasks. Jobs can give introverts a sense of outward purpose outside of instructional time.

From BBC:

  • Set ground rules for Collaborative Learning such as:
    • Take turns to speak
    • Listen sympathetically
    • Accept comments as they are: no put-downs
    • Prioritize success over individual friendships
    • Focus on the driving questions
    • Know your role and hold each other accountable
  • Put introverts in small groups first, then work toward larger groups.
  • Place emphasis on progression from good intrapersonal (self) skills to interpersonal (other) skills.
  • Set clear learning objectives in advance of the lesson.
  • Give people space and time to think before starting the task.
  • Gradually increase intensity of discussion: from a non threatening poll, to simple questioning, to an invitation to express views more deeply.

Finally, more from UminnTILT

  • Create a time and space for each person to experience quiet time, conversation, and small and large-scale interactions.
  • If you want to feature an open discussion, make room for everyone to discuss their own or each others’ ideas.
  • If you want to foster reflection, allow adequate time for quiet processing, then synthesize in voice and print.
  • If you want to promote collaboration, go from pairs, to trios, to groups.
  • If you want autonomous processing, allow for writing instead of speaking.
  • If you assign homework which requires question responses, allow students to “post a single quote they wish to affirm or challenge or an open-ended question for discussion.  The posting might be via a classroom response system like ChimeIn, or a forum in Moodle or a blog you’ve set up to capture the two different types of responses, or might be scribed onto physical or virtual whiteboards as students come into the classroom.” Doing so allows for anonymity, respecting the introvert’s need for privacy. They can also take time to decide what they want to share.  Concurrently,  extroverts will be able to immediately shape their own questions and select lines of thought to investigate at their own pace.

As we strive for greater collaboration, helping introverted students find a safe space is a much needed step in the right direction. By learning what makes the introvert and extrovert tick, we can optimize discussions and projects to allow both ends of the spectrum to participate in a way that honors their preferences.

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