During my time in the classroom as a substitute teacher, instructional aide and parent helper, one thing that always stood out for me was the way in which individual students interacted during class discussions. While some students were very quick to raise their hands and join in on the conversation, others sat quietly and held off on getting involved in the discussion even after they were encouraged to do so.
Why are some students so quick to answer while others hold back? Is it simply because some are naturally more outgoing and others are just a bit more shy? Or is it that those who seem less engaged are simply tuning out? Regardless of the reasons, I often wondered if there was a way to better engage the class to ensure all students were benefiting from the learning experience.
Is Your Child an “Innie” or an “Outie?”
While outgoingness, shyness or distinterest may all play roles in the level of class involvement, I have come to discover that the way in which each individual student is wired to relate to his or her environment is a major contributing factor as it relates to student behavior. This discovery is based on the work of Swiss psychologist Carl Jung and his theory on personality types. According to Jung, individuals are energized by either the external world (extraversion) or the internal world (intoversion).
Extraverts get their energy from the world around them. They are energized by other people and thrive in situations where there is a lot of interaction, activity and stimulation and can become drained if they have to spend a lot of time alone.
Extraverts tend to be:
- Outgoing and gregarious
- Accessible and often noticed because of their perceived ease with others
- Quick to speak, slow to listen
Introverts, on the other hand, get their energy from the inner world of thoughts, ideas and emotions. They are energized by pursuing solitary activities that allow them to work quietly and alone and can become drained by too much interaction
Introverts tend to be:
- Perceived as being reserved and contemplative
- Prone to hold back their thoughts and ideas to carefully listen to and thoughtfully process what is being said
- Quick to listen, slow to speak
According to Jung’s theory, while we each have a preferred way of being with the world, we all can alternate between these two energy attitudes. However, too much time spent in our less preferred mode, as previously mentioned, can be draining. It is also important to keep in mind that neither way of being is better than the other.
Understanding whether your child is an extravert or an introvert can be very helpful as it can aid in determining which kinds of activities and situations can bring out your child’s natural preferences and talents and which types may be more difficult and draining for your child.
Here are three ways to help both extraverts and introverts thrive in the classroom:
- Choice is Key
To give all students the opportunity to do their best work, the ideal is to provide them with different options to meet the learning goals. For example, when appropriate, students could be given the opportunity to work on class assignments in pairs or on their own.
- Combine Social and Reflective Activities
To meet the needs of both extraverted and introverted students, it is a good idea to balance social and reflective activities. For example, before a group discussion, the teacher could provide a worksheet for students to complete, giving introverts the time and opportunity to think about and process the questions beforehand. Or after the class discussion, the teacher could have students complete a reflection sheet or journal entry as a way to process and reflect upon what was discussed.
- Expand the Parameters of “Class Participation”
Rather than having all classroom participation points dependent upon how much students raise their hands and speak up in class, other activities, such as the opportunity to help others one-on-one or submitting written class discussion reflection sheets, can be incorporated into the mix.
To ensure both extraverted and introverted students have the opportunity to benefit from the classroom learning experience, talk to your child’s teacher to ensure there is a balance of activities that appeal to both types.