Working with Introverted students

Though the problems of extroverts and introverts are discussed very widely today, some people still have a misapprehension about what distinguishes these types of people. Many people have the notion of extroverts as social people who talk a lot and have the idea of introverts as tight, shy, and less-talkative people. The reality is that those characteristics are the consequence of the real distinguishing feature that psychologists use to divide people into introverts and extroverts. What is this feature?

People are divided into two mentioned types according to the way they produce vital energy. Extroverts charge themselves through contacting other people, while introverts saturate themselves with energy when they are alone. When introverts communicate with other people, they can feel tired very quickly because, as I already mentioned, they lose their energy during communication. Such differences lie on a physiological level. You can read more about this in Randy Buckner’s study and Jennifer Granneman’s article. In this post, we are going to discuss such an important topic for teachers of all classes – how to adapt the educational process with regard to introverts.

Decrease the number of group activities.

Many school programs imply group activities with no regard to how such tasks can affect some students. From the introduction above, you know the main specificity of introverts. When they are forced to often work in groups, they lose a lot of energy and cannot perform well, as they simply feel exhausted. I don’t deny the positive effects of group activities, but we also can’t ignore the downsides.

My recommendation is to keep a balance between group, pair, and solitary activities. The more people introverts contact at a time, the more energy they spend. Therefore, sometimes it’s reasonable to divide students into small groups consisting of two or three children.

Establish a time for quiet work at each lesson.

Active discussions and constant engagement can wear out even extroverted children. When you are the teacher and you have control over the situation, you know what the next step is, but students don’t. Many of them feel constant pressure because they can be suddenly asked about something. Remember that many students are afraid of being decried by their peers for their instant answers. Their self-esteem is not adequate yet. For this reason, we need to diminish the anxiety by giving students time to work on their own quietly, without any pressure.

Reorganize the room.

If there’s a place in your school where children have rest from classes, I would give you a piece of advice: organize this room in the way that is comfortable for both group games and for spending time on one’s own. You should organize the room in a way that contains more borders behind which introverts can have rest from communication. Also, you should take into consideration that introverts are more sensitive to loud noises; therefore, they need a quiet place to spend time on their own.

Offer the alternatives.

Unfortunately, we don’t have time to give a specific task to each student according to his or her abilities and personal preferences. However, we can allow them to make a choice. What I mean is that we shouldn’t force students to complete tasks in only one definite way. When you are exploring a definite topic, some students may like to present their research orally, while others in written form. Give them this possibility! If one student makes a presentation and another writes an essay, this doesn’t mean that one of them knows the topic better, does it?

Use technologies.

This situation is probably familiar to every teacher: when you start a group conversation, the same people participate in it each time. Some students are very shy to speak in public, others can’t follow the flow of conversation because it’s too rapid, still, others need more time to assemble a sentence to express their opinion in the best way.

Fortunately, due to the technologies of the 21st century, we have the opportunity to engage all students in discussion without interrupting their comfort zone. I’ll give only one example of the application which can help you with this, but there are more of them. It is called Pear Deck. With this technology, students have the ability to express their thoughts in written form anonymously.

Give more time for answering.

Introverted students usually need more time to give the answer. When you ask them a question and they have to speak in public, they first devote several seconds to struggle with the anxiety and then they contemplate their answer. Extroverts get used to speaking without thorough thinking, and during their speech, they can come to a certain conclusion. Introverts prefer to think, keeping silent, and then express the result of their thoughts. So, my recommendation is to give more time for answering, especially when you deal with introverts.

Evaluate students for knowledge, not only for active participation.

Have you ever experienced the situation when a student is very quiet in class, doesn’t participate in the discussion, but all his written works are excellent? How do you assess such students? I hope that you praise them with good scores without having any suspicion on whether he got college paper help from senior students or parents. Children go to school to get knowledge, and it’s the primary aim of studying. Adapting to the society is the secondary goal. I am deeply convinced that teachers should find ways to evaluate shy students instead of making shy and introverted students do things that are far away from their comfort zone.

The last thing I would like to emphasize is that we should evaluate knowledge, and not the personality. Try to carry this thought with your students. Otherwise, you are at risk of nurturing self-deprecating children with low self-esteem. If you would like to know more about introverts, read the book Quiet by Susan Cain. From it, you will understand how challenging it is for introverts to live in an extrovert-oriented society.


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