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Tips for Teaching Introverted Students
posted by: Melissa | March 01, 2013, 08:16 PM   


A few weeks ago, an article in The Atlantic made a bit of a stir.  Written by a teacher, the article argued that participation grades should be part of a teaching structure as a way to teach introverts to be more outspoken and to speak their minds.  The author, Jessica Lahey, reasons that it is a teacher’s responsibility to teach students how to succeed in the world, which means teaching introverts to “self-advocate” and not to be “intimidated” by the world around them.



Much of the criticism given to Ms. Lahey came from the confusion between shy students and introverted students.  While shy students are afraid of speaking out because they fear being judged by their peers, introverted students have no such fear and can often be extremely self-confident.  They are not likely to be motivated by a participation grade.


It is important that introverted students are given practice at putting their thoughts into words and presenting them in front of a group both casually and formally.  The challenge for the teacher is to create strategies that allow students to do that.  Below are some tips on how to encourage greater participation by introverted students:


  • Make the lesson deep and meaningful.  Introverted students are often quiet because they are deep thinkers.  They enjoy lessons that challenge their world view and force them to really chew on a concept in their brains.  At the same time, introverts tune out things they view as shallow or meaningless.  If you’re trying to encourage more participation from introverts, fill your lesson with a lot of meaty material.
  • Give them time to formulate their thoughts. Teachers know that all students need time to think after asking a question and are often trained to give plenty of wait-time.  Introverted students need that more than others.  They are not going to speak until they’ve had a chance to fully flesh out their thoughts.  One strategy to help students in the fleshing out process is to have them write their answers to questions before they share with the class.
  • Give them plenty of time to be alone.  Introverted students prefer low-stimulation environments, so a classroom that is fast-paced and constantly moving from one activity to the next is likely to wear them out.  Allow introverts to have longer-term projects that they can really focus on over several class-periods and that they can work on by themselves.  Although this seems counter-intuitive to increasing group participation, introverts will love to share their projects with others because the projects will give them something to share.  A great example of a class that is attempting to do this is here.
  • Give them alternate means of participation.  In today’s world, it’s naïve to think the only way to participate is by speaking in a group discussion.  Introverted students thrive on the internet, mostly because of the asynchronous discussions that happen on them.  Allow students to tweet, blog, or participate in forums as means of participating.  All of these give students a chance to form their thoughts, and participate in ways that they find meaningful.
Comments (2)Add Comment
From an introvert
written by D L, December 29, 2015

Quit trying to "fix" us, and start accepting us! Don't shove us into a group of strangers and tell us it's to "help" us make friends. We know how to do that. Don't put us in charge of a group to "help you be a leader" unless we ask you to. We aren't broken, so don't fix us.
written by JL, March 03, 2013

Could you cite the research on which you based this post? I would hope a professional organization would give advice from a research base, not just opinion or an individual's anecdotal experience.

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