Educating Introverts

While scrolling through Facebook I ran across an article by Michael Godsey over at The Atlantic, “When Schools Overlook Introverts.” (Thanks Jamie Cain.) In it he discusses that a current trend in educational instruction is geared toward more cooperative learning groups and active learning techniques (ALTs) that tend to lead to greater student engagement not only with the subject matter but also with one another. However, when it comes to teaching introverts these methods can produce the opposite effect. Instead of students being engaged in learning, they shrink away. Rather than be encouraged to join in engaging with other students, introverts are left feeling drained by the increased and intensified social interaction. Godsey does a good job near the end of the article noting that the use of cooperative learning groups and ALTs can be done without alienating introverts. These instructional techniques can be used in such a manner that still allows for differentiated instruction.

As someone who would classify oneself as mildly introverted (I do like interaction in small groups), who has been taught these instructional methods, who has personally engaged in them, and actually has integrated some of them into my teaching I concur with the author that these methods can be used successfully to include both introverts and extroverts. For instance, I like using the ALT “think-pair-share,” which calls for students to individually think through the answer to a question. Only after having thought about it themselves are they encouraged to share their findings with another classmate, usually their neighbor. I then ask for volunteers to share their conclusions with the class. This ALT allows introverts to do individual work, something they prefer, and extroverts to interact with other classmates (on a limited basis), as well as voice their solution before the entire class. And the good thing about this is that it only takes 3 to 5 minutes to do all of this. Even an introvert can stand to take a minute or two to confer with a classmate over a problem.

I am interested to know how other teachers take into consideration the different students they have in their classes when it comes to instructional methods. Do you tend to lean more heavily on methods that call for more individual work or more collaboration? Why do you think this is? Is it in keeping with your personality? Is it something mandated by your school system?


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