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How to Identify Extroverted and Introverted Learners

  • How to Identify Extroverted and Introverted Learners

The following blog post was written by Dara MacKay. Ths is the first blog in a series that explores the psychology of the introvert/extrovert in the ELL classroom. 

Have you ever found yourself at a loss trying to get a student to come out of his or her shell? Have you ever felt frustrated trying to get someone other than that one student to speak up? We all have those students we feel we aren’t reaching, or have no idea about, and we all have those students who naturally dominate the classroom’s verbal space. While there are many valid strategies to help balance out the classroom, there’s one, in particular, I believe to be extremely helpful. That strategy is understanding the psychology of the introversion/extroversion spectrum, identifying where our learners fall on it, and implementing some specific practices to help the marginalized learners flourish and all the rest of them stretch.

This post is going to be all about identifying your introverted and extroverted learners. There are some telltale signs that we can usually see within a classroom, and some not-so-telltale signs. Once we establish how to spot these learners, we will discuss how to address their needs, and finally, how assessment strategies can be adapted.

We live in an extroverted world, and educational practice models this ideal.

We live in an extroverted world, and educational practice models this ideal. How much emphasis is on group work, speaking and contributing orally, and using those presentation and interpersonal skills in our practice? These things tend to take the stage often. Extroverts thrive in these conditions. Introverts may not. What is an extrovert? A general consensus is that an extrovert is a person who is energized by social interaction. The more social the situation, the more the extrovert feels engaged. An introvert, on the other hand, is quite the opposite. Introverts gain energy from their inner world, alone time, and quiet. Introverts must expend energy being social. This is why there can be a lack of balance.

Some common characteristics of extroverted learners are:

  • they’re outgoing
  • comfortable working in groups or large crowds
  • a wide base of friends
  • dive in before thinking
  • feel tired when spending time alone
  • express themselves well verbally

Can you see some of these learners in your classroom? They prefer group work, pair work, have their hands up, socialize with many people, and seem to have energy in spades while doing so. 

What about introverts? They have some of these qualities:

  • reflective and reserved
  • slow to take action
  • a small group of close friends
  • prefer doing things alone (group work is hard)
  • like ideas of things over the actual things
  • exhausted by spending time with large groups of people
  • express things better in writing

Do you know some of these learners? They may sit to the side of the room, not participate verbally much, are the last to join a group, and stick to one or two of their close classmates. You may also see them with their headphones in while working or taking breaks.

Once we can identify (as best we can, because we are certainly not psychologists) where our learners fall on this spectrum, we can move forward into strategies to get all of them engaged in learning. My next post will address some classroom strategies for these learners.

If you would like a quick checklist for your students to see where they fall on the spectrum, check this out: 

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