Teaching Introverts

Recently I’ve read several thought-provoking book reviews of Quiet: the Power of Introverts by Susan Cain. Although I don’t necessarily agree that there is an “extroversion bias” in America, I do agree that schools give much more positive reinforcement to extroverted students, and even teachers. And I think her criticism of group work (that introverts produce better work on their own) is right on.

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I am an introvert. To be exact, I am an INTJ. Perhaps this hindered me as a teacher. According to the Myers-Briggs, extroverts, particularly ENFJs, make excellent teachers. Whether or not I was a good teacher is debatable, but one positive thing I did (that I would recommend to any teacher) was require my high school students to take the Myers-Briggs test. (The test can be found here.) Their results, which included whether the student was an introvert or extrovert, helped inform my teaching and lesson planning. For example, I knew that, for the most part, introverts would gain more from lectures and direct teaching, and extroverts enjoyed group work and making presentations.

In my teacher credentialing classes, we were constantly working in groups and encouraged to run our classrooms the same way. Several of my introverted students strongly objected to group work. Initially, I gave those students no other option, but eventually, I began to allow some students to work alone. In my experience, introverts produced better, more creative work outside of a group. Although I see the value of group work, at some point teachers and school administrators should stop overvaluing group projects and give introverted students the autonomy to choose to work alone, or in a group.

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