Des conseils de carrière
Teaching introverts and extroverts
Temperament influences students’
by Nicki Monahan
a recent session at Brock University’s
Centre for Pedagogical Innovation, I
explored the implications of temperament on teaching and learning.
Inspired by Susan Cain’s bestseller,
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t
Stop Talking, I have been thinking about how
introverts and extroverts differ in their preferences
when it comes to learning and the challenges this
might pose to faculty.
Though many of the participants were familiar
with the notions of introversion and extroversion,
we considered temperament from the perspective of preferred levels of stimulation and differing attitudes towards social contact and solitude.
I challenged some common misconceptions by
distinguishing between introversion and shyness.
While some individuals may be both introverted
and shy, the two qualities are not synonymous.
An individual on the introversion end of the
spectrum might be quite socially skilled but prefers solitary time and needs time alone after
extended social interaction.
The heart of the discussion focused on how
temperament influences the preferences of stu-
dents when it comes to learning. Students who are
more introverted are generally comfortable in lec-
ture halls, learning primarily through listening
and reading and may need time to reflect and
write before participating in verbal exchanges.
On the other hand, students who are more extro-
verted tend to think out loud, and participating in
group discussions may come easily. Given the
wealth of evidence supporting active learning, and
the valuable trend towards collaboration, this
creates a dilemma for faculty. Are introverted
students at a disadvantage when “participation”
is generally evaluated through observation of
who speaks in large groups?
I encouraged the group to reflect on their
assumptions with respect to temperament and
how these attitudes might play themselves out
in classrooms. Beginning with self-reflection and
considering how our biases might result in
rewarding the natural tendencies of extroverts
over introverts, I then proposed two approaches
to addressing these essential differences.
The first strategy I presented is “congruent
choice.” This simply means that, when possible,
we provide students with choice to engage in
learning in ways that are congruent with their
temperament. For an introverted student this
might include working alone rather than in
groups, being given time to think or write before
being asked to speak and being assessed through
written work rather than through oral presenta-
tions. The opposite choices might be preferred by
students on the extroversion end of the spectrum.
A second concept that I introduced is “an
equitable approach to risk taking.” While the
policy of congruent choice allows students to work
within their comfort zones, we acknowledged
that much of learning requires us to stretch
beyond what feels easy. I speculated, however,
that perhaps we ask introverts to stretch more
than extroverts. We often demand that our more
introverted students “speak up,” “contribute,” “be a
team player” and “show some leadership.” Fewer
INof us, perhaps, ask our more extroverted students to “think first,” “reflect,” “listen” and “acknowl- edge and invite the contributions of others.” In an equitable classroom, students identify their strengths as well as their areas for growth, and
risk-taking is encouraged regardless of where
students fall on the spectrum.
A few weeks after this seminar, I asked for
feedback from the participants. One commented,
“I thought about marking bias in relation to par-
ticipation, and I am thinking about other ways
of marking participation.” One faculty member
recognized some inherent bias in her approach.
“I realized that the way I have structured my
course, it would push the introverts but I haven’t
structured it to push the extroverts in the same
way. It has made me really consider how I may
foster learning in a comfortable yet challenging
way to both introverts and extroverts.”
Finally, one participant focused on the impli-
cations beyond the classroom to the workforce:
“I had not encountered the phrase, ‘culture of
extroversion’ before, but it definitely made an
impression. In my role in career education, this
brought to light for me how much of the recruit-
ment process inherently favours extroverts, even
though extroversion is not necessarily a key
ingredient for success in the actual jobs.”
Whether in the classroom or on the job, introverts and extroverts have different strengths.
Rather than trying to turn introverts into extroverts, or vice versa, both will perform to their
peak potential if those strengths are fostered and
risk-taking is rewarded.
Nicki Monahan works in faculty
development at George Brown
College in Toronto.
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“ Students who are more
introverted may need time
to reflect and write before
participating in verbal