Engaging Introverted Students


As much as instructors aim to include all students, some are difficult to draw out. Many of these students are introverts, a personality trait shared by a large percentage of the population who prefer a quiet, minimally stimulating environment. Introverts feel drained by busy or fast-paced situations and often require down time after such experiences.

Introverts have certain characteristics that may include the following:

  • being active listeners
  • disliking group work/small talk
  • possessing the ability to hyperfocus
  • preferring reflection/deep thought

Introversion is not the same as shyness. People who are shy feel uncomfortable or awkward in social situations, whereas introverts may avoid or actually enjoy social settings but need quiet time after these types of activities, which they find exhausting.

It’s easy to overlook introverts, especially when their extroverted classmates are the first to raise their hands. Nevertheless, introverts can add a great deal to the business communication classroom. Below are some ways to include introverted students.

Create awareness. Extroversion is considered the default in today’s culture, so it’s helpful to discuss introversion and its characteristics in the classroom. (Instructors may want to suggest that students define which trait they possess by taking a personality test such as the Myers-Briggs.) Once students have self-identified, instructors can bring up the “different but not less than” conversation or drive students to the many TED Talks on the topic.

Rethink participation. Because introverts often need more time than extroverts to think through questions, extroverts often receive better participation marks. To work around this situation, the flipped classroom model works well. By asking students to, say, watch a video before a class session, introverts can be better prepared to participate when the video is discussed later in class.

Create smaller groups. Introverts typically dislike group work—it can make them feel inhibited to share their ideas because they don’t have enough time to think them through. By using groups of no more than three, instructors can ensure that introverts’ ideas won’t be drowned out as they often are in larger group

Encourage brainwriting instead of brainstorming. A simple fix to the traditional brainstorming format, which encourages shouting out ideas, is to ask students to write down all their thoughts and then share them with teammates.

Have teams of two share ideas before larger group discussions. Introverts are often lost amid class-wide discussions. However, if they talk through their ideas with one person, they are more likely to add those insights to a larger discussion.

Despite their best intentions, instructors can fall into the trap of considering introverted students uninterested or disengaged. By using awareness and a few simple tweaks to teaching methods, instructors can encourage these valuable students to join the learning arena.


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