Tag Archives: Introverts

Personalities in the Classroom

As an instructor, how do I create a learning environment and lesson plans that will benefit both introverts and extroverts? Or is it necessary at all to give special consideration to a learner’s personality? According to Hattie’s “Visible Learning for Teachers” (2012), teaching to personality had a very low effect on student learning, whereas classroom discussion had a very high effect (0.18 compared to 0.82). It is my responsibility as an instructor to create a mix of learning activities that will both be appealing to various personality types, but also activities that will challenge the way they think, process, and present information. Although introverts prefer to be solitary in their thoughts and thinking process, it is important for them to also find and use their voice. In both the classroom and the workplace, there are times when it is important for those who are introverted to come out of their shell and share with their colleagues. Likewise, it is vital that extroverts recognize that there will be times where it is not appropriate to think “out loud”, and they will need to practice working through problems silently in their head. In her TED Talks video, although Cain promotes the “Power of Introverts”, she states that she is not seeking introvert domination. She recognizes that great ideas and leadership can come from either personality type, but she hopes for a better balance and inclusion of different work styles, and where leaders of both personality types learn from each other.

Acknowledging the statistics to maximize impact on learning by Hattie (2012), I believe that as an instructor, I need to recognize that learners come with their own unique personalities, and I do need to be respectful of this. However, it may help to enhance the learner’s experience and success by coaxing them out of their comfort zones on occasion. Being mindful that not every student is keen on group work and discussions, I need to create a balance of activities that will enhance each students learning experience. Perhaps classroom discussion could first begin as discussion in pairs, so as not to overwhelm introverts (such as Think-Pair-Share from Barkley, 2010). To make those who are introverted comfortable, having a positive learning environment would also be very important. Each student would need to feel welcomed and respected, and feel comfortable speaking up in front of their peers. Another thing I might do to acknowledge that learners have varying preferences is to provide options for projects or assignments. For example, the assignment could be done individually or in groups, could include a presentation or a written paper, etc. One other challenge that I may find when instructing introverts, is recognizing the difference between being disengaged and being introverted. These types of learners, who will possibly lack participation and enthusiasm, may appear disinterested in the lesson, which could bring some frustration. I know that some instructors may be tempted to include participation as part of the evaluation strategy, but I don’t think this is appropriate. I need to acknowledge that perhaps these learners are reflecting privately, and are in fact, very engaged in the lesson. My goal as an instructor in regards to personalities would be to help introverted learners to become confident in using their voice when necessary (especially with public speaking skills), and for those who are extroverted, to find time to “turn down the noise” as Cain says, and reflect on our thoughts.

Barkley, E.F. (2010). Student engagement techniques: A handbook for college faculty. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Cain, S. (2013, September 29). Susan Cain: The power of introverts [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts?language=en
Hattie, J. (2012). Visible learning for teachers: Maximizing impact on learning. London and New York: Routledge.


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