Our mission at Top Hat is to build tools for lecture professors to reach every student. In today’s introductory-level courses, enrollment can be several hundred students. Many Top Hat professors use our student engagement platform to give every student a voice – not only the extroverts. In that spirit, we share 4 things all educators should know about the introverts in their classes.
In Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, she writes:
“Introverts prefer to devote their social energies to close friends, colleagues, and family. They listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation. They tend to dislike conflict. Many have a horror of small talk, but enjoy deep discussion.”
In a classroom setting, educators will encounter a mixed bag of introverted and extroverted students. In lecture classes, it can be challenging for introverted students to raise their hands and participate, but this should not mean that these students have fewer opportunities to participate. Instead, educators can be aware of these four traits to help understand their introverted students in order to provide opportunities for introverts to engage, grow, and excel.
1. Introverts appreciate time to think.
Introverted students do not respond well to being abruptly called upon in class. This does not necessarily mean that the student will not speak in front of the class, rather that he or she prefers a moment to collect his or her thoughts. When asking a question in class, give your students a moment or two to think and perhaps to write down their thoughts. Introverted students will feel more comfortable participating after preparing for a moment or two.
2. Introverts often prefer to write.
Many introverts prefer expressing themselves in the written word, rather than in discussion. Imagine how frustrated many introverts feel when their instructor asks an interesting question, they have a thoughtful response, but they do not quite feel comfortable jumping in. Having the ability to write out their responses gives introverts the opportunity for thoughtful contribution. On Top Hat, leave the discussion open after the class ends so that students can still submit their thoughts. This way, introverted students can participate in the conversation through a method in which they feel comfortable.
3. Introverts are good leaders.
Just because a student is introverted, does not mean he or she will not be a good group leader. When working with small groups, introverts form strong relationships, listen to everyone’s ideas, and encourage collaboration. If assigning group-based work, do not hesitate to select an introverted student as a project leader. He or she will likely surprise you!
4. Introverts aren’t seeking to “come out of their shells.”
A common misconception with introverted students is that he or she is uncomfortable or unsure. An educator should encourage introverts to embrace their natural strengths and help these students achieve more by understanding their needs and providing new ways for them to participate. Just because a student does not volunteer to raise his or her hand during class, does not mean he or she does not have insightful commentary to contribute. Applaud your introverts for good work by writing a note on an essay or in office hours to show that you appreciate all kinds of students, not only the ones speaking during class.