I cannot recall the first time I was introduced to the concept of extroversion and introversion, but whenever it was, I immediately identified as an introvert. All the signs were there, from my quietness, shyness, to my discomfort in social settings and constant self-scrutiny afterward. A few years ago, a co-worker introduced me to a book called Quiet, a book all about introversion. The book immediately caught my attention with its subtitle: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. I thought, if I cannot make it as an extrovert in this world, maybe there are some secret introversion powers I can harness. Maybe these powers will come more easily than struggling (and struggling mightily hard) to sham my way to better status, more respect, and extra friendships.
I finally started reading the book about a month ago. The book includes great research and insight into how introverts interpret the world opposed to extroverts. It also let me know that I was very much OK being introverted. It’s not my fault. It’s just what was in the cards. But in western society, we value extroversion, and, reluctantly, there are some realities I will need to conform to anyway.
In Quiet, the author Susan Cain asserts that online education is a more suitable means of learning for introverted students. I have to agree! Backed by studies, the book describes introverts as having a highly sensitive amygdala, the area of the brain that manages our flight-or-fight response. Because of this high sensitivity, introverts are always assessing social situations for threats, rending them uncomfortable, shy, and quiet. Introverts also take evaluation apprehension – the fear of being wrong – more seriously and strenuously, making them hesitant to speak up and share.
Instead, introverts retreat into themselves. Not because they are antisocial, but because their thoughts and opinions are drowned out by the socially more dominant, louder, extroverts. Consequently, introverts creative and critical thinking is not recognized or validated.
The book notes that in any given classroom, one-third, to even one half of the students are introverts. You may not notice this demographic because in a culture that values extroverted tendencies, most introverts have learned to imitate extroversion; though faking extroversion is exhausting for them. To reach this one-third to one half of your class (and engaging their cognitive presence that might otherwise be preoccupied with social anxiety) you can enhance your instruction using eLearning strategies.
Removed from the more social and, to introverts, stressing setting of the classroom, and set behind the their own digital devices, introverts feel more comfortable engaging the learning content. They’re less worried about the social stress, and more focused with their work. Near the back page of Quiet, Cain writes “Children may reveal their thoughts, ideas, and selves online in ways they would not in live discussion.”
Discussion forums, social media, blogs and development of other online artifacts like infographics, podcasts, or videos may serve the learning introvert’s brain more comfortably and confidently than class discussion, roleplaying, or presentations. Use these types of assignments to involve introverts. Cain adds “And once they’ve participated online, they’re more likely to participate in class as well.”
(Additional note: In instances of groupwork, Cain says to limit groups to three members, and to define each member’s role. Introverts are more comfortable sharing in smaller groups, and are confident in voicing the objectives of their designated role.)