Schools overlook introverts at their peril

by 29 Sep 2015
Susan Cain’s ‘Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking’ was published almost four years ago to widespread acclaim. Cain’s book takes schools and a range of key institutions to task for emphasising the importance of accommodating extroverts and those who “need lots of stimulation.”  The ground-breaking book also aimed to raise awareness about the introvert personality type, especially among those who’ve had difficulty in understanding it.
 
It would appear that such efforts have largely struggled to implement much change in the educational sector. The way in which certain instructional trends and education buzzwords like ‘collaborative learning’ and ‘project-based learning’ and ‘flipped classrooms’ are applied often don’t take into account the specific needs of introverts.
 
Moreover, trends such as these could in fact see classroom environments that embrace extroverted patterns of behaviour, through dynamic and social learning programs, being prioritised more than ever.
 
Meanwhile, some advocates for “active learning classrooms” write about “breaking students and faculty out of their comfort zones” as though it’s a good thing, while other teachers continue to conflate introversion and an inability to self-advocate.
 
While these approaches may be appealing qualities in the classroom, overemphasizing them could seriously undermine the learning potential of students who are more inward-thinking and easily drained of energy and performance prowess by constant interactions with others.
 
For instance, Liz Sproat, head of Google for Education, an organisation which doesn’t see a profit when students simply read quietly and think introspectively, classes “the increase in collaborative working” as a given according to an article on ComputerWeek.com . And, one that Google would be keen to make more “cost-effective.”
 

By Richard van der Draay

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