I used to think the ideal student is extroverted: participating always in class discussions and loving group activities. That’s my personal experience too as a student. Teachers tended to gear their classes for extroverted students. I did the same when I became a teacher, assuming all my students were extroverted and enjoyed high stimulation activities.
This had to change.
After understanding more about my temperament (I’m an introvert!) and reading up on how to deal with introverted students, I would like to share the following strategies on how to help introverted students thrive in your classroom.
1. Give them space.
Don’t put them on the spotlight always. If they’ll be on the spotlight, do it gently. Don’t be like an army sergeant calling out people to answer. Make them feel safe in your classroom.
When you give questions to them, pause before calling on them. Give them a few seconds to process the question. Then gently, ask them to answer the question. Give them opportunity to pass if they are not feeling comfortable or really not ready to answer. Tell them you’ll come back to them when they’re ready.
2. Promote small-group discussions or pair work.
Rather than always having whole-class discussions which can put an introverted student into the limelight, small group discussions and pair work can be more beneficial to introvert students. Introverted students like meaningful discussions so it’s important you put some preparation and make sure these small group discussions can provide a stimulating environment for introvert students to share their thoughts.
3. Give independent/solitary work.
Research has shown that a lot of academic achievements are made during independent and solitary work. Sometimes too much group work, i.e. brainstorming sessions, can have limited productivity compared to solitary work. Introverts love solitary work because it’s low stimulation and they get to engage in their thoughts.
4. Give alternatives for introverted students to participate aside from class discussions.
A lot of introverts share their thoughts better on paper or on writing. So allow them to engage in your subject matter through an online discussion, forums, blogs and other electronic means.
5. Teach them the free trait theory. This theory tells us that we can act differently from our temperament as long the purpose for it is in line with our values. This theory allows Barrack Obama, an introvert, to give inspiring speeches to the masses. Similarly, introverted teachers use this theory to become actors and actresses while on stage in the classroom.
I think it’s important that introverted students to still be able to speak up and not always hide in their thoughts. So applying a mixture of classroom strategies that cater to both introverts and extroverts will be the rational way for a productive classroom. Extroverts will also do well to learn how to be productive in “introverted” activities.
Dr. Kendall Hoyt says it best: “In order to be effective in this world, you must be able to communicate.”