In no way do I have any experience as a teacher and in no way do I want to tell you, as educated and experienced professionals, how to do your job. I would simply like to give a glimpse of my perspective as an introverted student. Although no one is solely introverted or extroverted, people who lean more towards being introverted undoubtedly have different needs than extroverts in terms of learning. In contrasts to extroverts, introverts tend to feel drained by social interaction; therefore, they tend to behave more reserved, passive, and quiet. It may seem that the traits that make students introverted are more of a character flaw than a strength. Susan Cain believes that it’s quite the opposite though, just like how more extroverted people usually have the strengths of being charismatic and decisive that makes them a good fit for leadership roles, it is important to identify that the qualities of introverts helps them to be good listeners and mediators. Cain is a lawyer and an author that has published multiple books on introversion. At school and later in the workplace, Cain struggled because she did not fit the “extroverted ideal” that so many hold, albeit unconsciously, today. Her confidence in her abilities suffered because she wasn’t as outgoing and assertive as others. It took her most of her life to discover the value in the abilities she already had as an introvert. Cain is a great example of why we must recognize the importance of the attributes of both introverted and extroverted students; if we do, we may allow them to grow into their natural abilities.
I have personally encountered many assignments in my education that are graded off of participation, meaning that to receive the full amount of points I had to be verbally active in a discussion. I do see the value in exercises like this, in fact I enjoy them occasionally. However, for many introverted students, assignments that are heavily group-oriented will have them frustrated and force them to close themselves off.In doing this, introverts will become frustrated and closed off. The truth is that most students such as myself learn by observing others, where we can sit back, think for ourselves and absorb the information in front of us. So, in situations were the grade is based off of how much you lead the discussion or teach the class as a student, introverts will often shut down, especially when they struggle to understand the topic the lesson covers. The solution to this issue would be to give students more options in the classroom.
In places of education today, students find themselves doing almost constant group work that requires working with those around them in situations that feel extremely unnecessary and uncomfortable. Despite its positive opportunities for growth, many introverted students are struggling with this direction of education and the judgement that comes with it. Often, introverted students are seen as damaged extroverts that are shy, lack social skills, or just do not like people. These perceptions are false and inherently harmful, both extroverts and introverts have positive qualities and need to be treated as such. Unfortunately, most introverts, such as myself are treated exactly like extroverts, and it can be very detrimental not only to their understanding of concepts but also to their confidence. Somewhere between one-third and one-half of our country’s population are introverts, making around one out of every two or three students you have are an introvert (Cain, 2012 ). Frankly, I believe this is a surprisingly high number of students for many teachers. It speaks volumes to the amount of pupils that are not being educated in a way that suits their personality makeup. Although no person is completely introverted or extroverted, the personality differences between people who are more introverted and those who are extroverted are apparent in how they learn. To reduce the amount of harmful effects caused by modern day extrovert-centered education system, more opportunities where students may elect to do work alone should be introduced.
As many introverts grow up, they will learn to hide the qualities that come alongside introversion, and learn to masquerade as a charismatic extrovert. It is speculated that many adults will not even know of their introversion for this reason. This raises the question, “Why do people feel as if they should act as the stereotypical extrovert?” At first glance it appears that the answer is clear, of course it is allegedly because the ideal person is an extrovert, like a suave businessman that has his customers enthralled by this every word. Dr.Charles Meisner, who is known for his work in the psychology of personality, found in a study that ninety-one percent of teachers describe their ideal student as being extroverted. This is understandable, as extroverts are generally known to be sociable and energetic, but still the findings of this study are troubling. The increasing stress on extroverted traits is leaving introverts to feel as if they are somehow of less use or worth because of how they are genetically inclined to behave. When the extrovert ideal is continually forced upon young students through opportunities, like assignments, that are centered on skills that come more naturally to extroverted individuals, introverts will inexplicably find themselves strugglings while the world around them moves forward in triumph. In many classrooms today, we rarely celebrate and hone the more “introverted” qualities of creativity, introspection, and mediating. This shortcoming, although not purposeful, can lead to a serious decrease in self image, something I have experienced first hand.
It is definitely arguable that teaching oriented towards group work should not be changed because after high school most, if not all students, will need to know how to effectively work with and manage others. Undoubtedly, the use of school work does help to increase our “people skills”. However, as previously stated, having a sole concentration on how well students interact with others over looks all the other positive traits and skills one can have, to the point that introverts self-worth will suffer because they do not see any worth in what they can do well. Now, I do not want you as our educators to put an end to group work or discussions. Both are very effective and teach useful skills such as teamwork and they encourage students to develop communication skills. As a compromise, I highly encourage you to combine a healthy amount of more “extroverted” lesson types with “introverted” lesson types. When these styles are combined you will have a higher chance of reaching every single student you are serving. For example, you may consider giving your students the option to either write a short response on paper instead of simply discussing something with the class. Giving your students the choice will make them feel more empowered and in control of their education. Even better, you may want to have your students do a little bit of both, give them time to hone their communication skills by having them host a group discussion and give them time to contemplate by themselves. By introducing both skills you will reach more of your students, even if you have to cut down the time allowed for one skill so you may have time for both.
As I am sure you know, it is important to remember that no two students are the same, no two introverted students will have the same struggles, just like two extroverted students may require guidance through a certain teaching style to fully grasp a concept. With that in mind, I encourage you to chose to integrate more assignments that allow students to either work by themselves or others and celebrate qualities associated with introverts along with the qualities of extroverts. If you do this, you will empower them to be proud of their traits and help them to build skills with confidence.
Filled with respect and gratitude,
Cain, Susan. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. Crown Publishing Group, 2012.
Charles Meisgeier et al., “Implications and Applications of Psychological Type to Educational Reform and Renewal,” Proceedings of the First Biennial International Conference on Education of the Center for Applications of Psychological Type, Gainesville, FL: Center for Applications of Psychological Type, 1994), 263-271