Engaging Faith: Practical lesson ideas and activities for Catholic Educators

August 16, 2011

Do You Know Your Introverted Students?

Religion class can be a place for memorable and formative discussions, and course grades often include class participation. However, students of a certain temperament might be at a disadvantage in this situation unless teachers recognize, appreciate, and foster their unique skill set. These students are introverts.

Characteristics of Introversion

Introversion and extraversion are different temperaments. Generally, introverts expend energy in social situations and must spend time alone to recharge. Extraverts gain energy from being social. Introverts may be misunderstood as aloof or shy, but these are not qualities of introversion. Introverts have a rich inner life. "Still waters run deep." They may not make small talk, but may be able to speak at length about topics that interest them. Introverts value a few close and nurturing friendships; they like being with people, but also enjoy time alone.

Evidence shows extraverts and introverts think differently. Introverts process information in a deep and integrated way. This means they are more reflective and deliberate when communicating thoughts.

Introverted Students in the Classroom

About 25 percent of people are naturally introverted, and studies show the likelihood of introversion increases with IQ (Silverman 1986). In class, “the introvert is comfortable when allowed to observe and uncomfortable when pressured to perform.” He may prefer to work independently or in small groups. During discussion, extraverts may contribute readily while introverts seem disinterested. In reality, introverts are likely involved in observing and processing information. “We should be aware,” says Dr. Tami Isaacs, that the student sitting in the back may be an interested introvert and not an unmotivated student.” When gently invited to participate in discussion, introverts can offer valuable insights.

Inviting Introverted Students into the Discussion

To help introverts flourish in class discussions:

  • Assign material for an upcoming discussion in advance.
  • Pause after asking a question. Several seconds of silence may encourage introverted students to answer.
  • Notice whether extraverted students are dominating discussion.
  • At a crucial point in discussion, have students pause to write their thoughts. Resume discussion by first calling on students, then taking volunteers.
  • Make eye contact with quieter students during discussion. Notice posture and facial expressions, which may indicate their level of engagement.
  • Notify a student that you will invite them to comment on a specific thing in several minutes. The student has time to prepare without feeling pressured.
  • Design rotations for responses so students can expect to answer without feeling singled out.
  • Discuss introverted students’ interests with them one-on-one outside of class. They may be encouraged to contribute in the classroom.
  • Consider what a class participation grade can include besides vocal participation?

Sources

Isaacs, Dr. Tami. “Introverted Students in the Classroom: How to Bring Out Their Best.” Faculty Focus. July 27, 2009. http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-and-learning/introverted-students-in-the-classroom-how-to-bring-out-their-best/

CarlKingCreative. “10 Myths About Introverts.” www.carlkingcreative.com/10-myths-about-introverts.

Laney, Dr. Marti Olsen. "The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World." Workingman

Perhaps you don’t have time to consider all these questions in depth. Feel free to focus on one or two you feel are most important. Journal about them, pray about them, discuss them with colleagues, and keep them in mind in preparation for next year. Best wishes on a productive start to the school year!

Barbara Jane Sloan

Holy Spirit Preparatory School

Atlanta, GA

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