Our classrooms are often decorated with pictures and bright colors to appeal to visual learning styles. Desks are organized to help assist with physical learning styles, and we use a lot of group exercises to apply lessons. But are we really considering all types of learners?
Exclusion of certain learning types isn’t intentional and sometimes when teachers have a particular curriculum, they are working to make sure all of their students get the basics of each concept. However, as research has shown, there is a tendency for teachers to cater their teaching styles to extroverts.
Typically, learners fall into two large groups – introverts and extroverts – and as a teacher, your primary concern is making sure the material in your lesson plan can be easily taught, understood, and applied. You develop learning applications to involve the entire class and throughout this process you consider your students and how to best structure the learning environment. You think about what they respond well to, how they interact, and how they process information. Sometimes this process is natural and other times your plan becomes a one-size-fits-all lesson.
We may understand the importance of catering to all students, but how can you make sure to reach both introverts and extroverts? A good place to start is by understanding both groups and what motivates them to learn.
Educating Extroverts and Introverts
The first component of learning style dimensions is how learners interact with the outside world. Extroverted learners prefer working with others and bouncing ideas back and forth. Social and learning activities that benefit them include problem-solving with others, group projects, and learning through mimicking experiences.
Extroverted learners have the following characteristics:
- Very outgoing, they are “people” people
- Quite comfortable working in and being part of large crowds
- Have a wide base of friends, enjoy getting to know a lot of people
- Dive in without always thinking things through
- Feel sapped when spending too much time alone
Extroverted learners possess a social learning style. In addition, they have acute verbal learning styles as well, often communicating through stories or being the first to volunteer for assignments and projects.
Introverts generally have a shy nature, and students who are introverted have a solitary learning style, as they often prefer to solve problems on their own. Introverted learners like to brainstorm and seek theoretical exploration. They like to think out a problem and weigh options before moving forward.
Introverted learners have the following characteristics:
- Appear reflective or reserved
- Slow to take action – sometimes too slow
- Have a very small but close group of friends – preferring to get to know a few people really well
- Feel most comfortable doing things alone and prefer doing things that can be done alone
- Often likes the idea of things better than the actual thing
- Finds spending time in large crowds or groups to be exhausting
In many classrooms, a large portion of the school day is centered on group activities. In order to provide a balance that suits both extroverted and introverted learners, teachers can coordinate both small group and individual activities.
Also important to note: teachers should exercise patience, especially when it comes to introverted students. If they are called upon in class to answer a problem, it may take them a bit longer as they are probably carefully assessing and evaluating their response. Giving them the appropriate time to think quietly will help encourage the student’s logical learning style. Extreme introverts may benefit from help during sessions with a school counselor. As part of the curriculum in a Master's in School Counseling program, strategies are taught to help students with different learning styles succeed in the classroom.
If you want to encourage introverts and extroverts at the same time, one strategy that has proven effective is to have the class “think-pair-share” which means that after the teacher asks a question, students turn to their partner, sharing their answers with each other rather than having to speak in front of the whole class. In addition, you can implement a journal time where students can write down stories and give them time to work independently.
On the other hand, extroverts are typically energetic, social individuals whose energy source comes from being around other people. These students are expressive and tend to have many friends. It’s important to address their needs as well. Try group projects where 1-2 students lead, or try voluntary storytelling.
Extroverted children thrive when working in collaborative groups, and they enjoy class discussions as well. Class activities can help cater to this learning style. As students get older, middle school and high schools provide additional outlets for students of either learning style to feel more comfortable. Students are able to have more flexibility in their schedules and curriculum. So if the extroverted student wants to explore their verbal learning style they can take classes like debate. For introverted learners who want to focus on their visual learning style, they can take art or ceramics.
At the end of the day, we want to recognize the unique needs of these two distinct groups in terms of their learning style preferences and strengths. But we also want to realize that in many cases, students sit somewhere along the spectrum, and not at the polar ends. It’s important to incorporate learning activities that address the needs of introverts and extroverts alike so that you can have a balanced classroom where real learning takes place by all.