Objective Questions: Do we recognize introverts in the classroom? Do we encourage their learning?
I always have preferred working by myself, which is not possible all the time in our extrovert world. However, if I was assigned a project, I usually ended up leading the group. Am I an introvert? According to Susan Cain (2012), “some people fall smack in the middle of the introvert/extrovert spectrum,” which makes it even more difficult to recognize who is what. As teachers, how can we differentiate introverts and extroverts and those in between, so we can create proper comfortable learning environment for all of them? Otherwise by pushing a group work, the common way of learning in a modern classroom, we ignore the needs of introverts and stimulate only the extroverts, who “really crave large amounts of stimulation, whereas introverts feel at their most alive and their most switched-on and their most capable when they’re in quieter, more low-key environments” (Cain, 2012).
It was a real “aha moment” for me watching this TED Talk because I have not thought before that it can be an issue for some learners. I wonder if other teachers feel the same way. I can imagine how those students who are introverts suffer and struggle with a group while they want to be separate in a quite environment, so they can perform better and enjoy the process.
I wonder how many of my students are in that “third to a half” of people, and hate the group tasks I impose on them. I agree with Cain (2012) that in order to maximize my students learning abilities, I have to put them in the “zone of stimulation”, which is the best for them (Cain, 2012).
I know the schools are designed around extroverts, my own grandson, for example, who is a real introvert, I believe, often is sent out of the classroom either to the library or the hallway, or even Principal’s office for not being cooperative in a group. Yet his grades are quite high. I can recognize the issue now, but I myself often shared his teacher’s frustration.
I believe that, as Cain mentioned, most of the teachers think that “the ideal student is an extrovert as opposed to an introvert, even though introverts actually get better grades” (Cain, 2012). This misconception might be a result of extroverts being more talkative and active in class. The teachers usually think that they are on subject, which might not always be the case. There might be “zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas” (Cain, 2012). Creativity happens within individual focused work, and great inventors, such as Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla, who did their best work secretly, prove that.
Just like Cain, I also believe that collaboration and teamwork are still important. I have encouraged my more experienced learners to help out the novice ones, and many times I have seen positive results in partnership.
Now, when I am more aware of the issue, I will pay more attention to it. In my first class, I will add a question into my icebreaker for students to interview each other and introduce their partners to the class. And the question will be: Do you prefer working individually, with a partner or in a group? I will also observe my students’ group work and try to find out who are extroverts and the struggling introverts. I will try to balance group activities with a choice of individual tasks if and when it is possible. I agree with the importance of individual work not only for introverts, but also for extroverts, so they can learn how to study on their own, individually (Cain, 2012).