5 Ways to Engage Introverts in the Classroom

It may be a misconception regarding personality traits that the more verbal, outgoing classroom extroverts maintain superior classroom or academic ability. While introverts are not at a cognitive deficit when compared to extroverts, the personality type may pose obstacles for instructors who value regular classroom engagement. Here are five brief ways that instructors may be able to better support the personalities and enhance engagement of student introverts in the classroom setting.

1. Build in peer-support measures. Active learning efficacy is well-established, but whether students are at an advantage or disadvantage with peer-to-peer interactions is unknown. Learning environments with frequent peer-based discussion may beg the question as to whether introverted students may not perform as successfully as their ambivert or extrovert counterparts. Introverted students may prefer less social stimulation and require more time to reflect before contributing to the peer-based group; conversely, more outgoing students may be more comfortable with quick decision-making and spontaneously sharing ideas.

Within an active learning environment, there are a few ways to make all students feel confident and comfortable in active participation. First, consider building in time for students to discuss within smaller groups before answering to the larger group setting; this can help active participation, networking, and forming study groups, while removing barriers to activity with fellow students. Having students choose group roles in which they are most comfortable may in turn allow both self-comfort and peer support. Finally, written reflections that can be shared can help motivate performance without necessarily creating “performance anxiety.” With consideration to the development of group work, skills and contribution, introverted students can have a positive experience within active learning and peer interactions.

2. Attempt problem-based learning. Problem-based learning (PBL) enhances cooperative learning, disciplinary subject learning, iterative learning, and authentic learning. When PBL is used, it can help strengthen critical thinking, collaboration, teamwork, and creativity skills, thus maintaining its essentiality in the lives of students and strengthening peer-to-peer engagement. In one study, a PBL model was employed in an entrepreneurial course, which lead to a significant increase in student motivation. This study reported that confidence gained through the PBL process may play a role in learning. When students have more control over learning and establish a baseline of self-awareness and confidence, both motivation and engagement are likely to improve.

3. Utilize both competitive and cooperative learning methodology. Cooperative learning (CL) is a means of working together to achieve a shared learning goal. One significant attribute of successful CL is that groups are structured in a way to ensure that members work interdependently and reap both social and academic benefits. By doing so, it is thought that CL can enhance the support of students that identify as introverted. Interestingly, one study that examined cooperative versus competitive learning for reading comprehension on extroverted and introverted students found that introverts outperformed extroverts in terms of competitive learning in a reading-based environment. This indicates that assignment type may also play a role in relation to personality trait, as reading is an activity more likely to be associated with the introverted personality.

4. Incorporate authentic and relatable assignments. In its simplest form, authentic instruction may be achieved by designing curriculums and assessments based on specific material in a context that can be applied to real-world scenarios rather than generalized instruction. Therefore, teaching delivery that is more targeted to the student’s environment may allow each individual to more efficiently internalize the information. One study addressing English as a Second Language sought to determine the effect of authentic learning instruction on personality type using immersion with audio/visual technology. It was found that the utilization of authentic A/V materials significantly improved learning in both introverted and extroverted students, which supports authentic instruction regardless of this personality type.

5. Bring in the technology. Similar to the implementation of authentic instruction, the use of technology should not be overlooked in modern classrooms. Utilizing applied technology such as A/V material and audience-response systems (ARS) is important in the realms of student engagement, and may be vital for students who identify as introverted. One study evaluated methods that may be used to increase student engagement in large classes consisting of up to 500 students. When ARS technology was assessed in a first-year course, the results showed that those who frequently utilized the technology were more likely to be engaged with the lectures. However, the authors demonstrated that extroversion was not associated with an increased propensity to use the technology and engage in the classroom. ARS technology was shown to be an efficient method to increase classroom engagement among those students who identify as introverted.

While introverts may superficially appear disinterested, consistent engagement can be achieved via implementation of relatively simple adaptations. The introvert/extrovert component is only one piece of the trait-based personality makeup. Adapting to unique classroom personalities may be a distinctive, but surmountable task for instructors.

Allison Green
Boston Tutoring Services

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