This may be a misconception regarding personality traits that the more verbal and outgoing extroverts in the classroom maintain superior classroom or academic abilities. Although having an introverted personality is generally not indicative of a student’s cognitive ability, it can pose obstacles for instructors who value regular classroom engagement. Here are five brief ways instructors can better support personalities and improve engagement for introverted students in the classroom.

1. Integrate peer support measures

The effectiveness of active learning is well established, but it is unclear whether students are advantaged or disadvantaged in peer interactions.1 Learning environments with frequent peer discussions may raise the question of whether introverted students may not perform as well as their ambivert or extrovert counterparts. Introverted students may prefer less social stimulation and need more time to reflect before contributing to the peer group; conversely, more outgoing students may be more comfortable with quick decision making and spontaneous sharing of ideas.2

In an active learning environment, there are several ways to ensure that all students feel confident and comfortable in active participation. First, consider allowing time for students to discuss in small groups before responding to the larger group; it can promote active participation, networking, and forming study groups, while removing barriers to activity with other students. Asking students to choose group roles in which they are most comfortable can in turn allow for both comfort and peer support.2 Finally, written reflections that can be shared can help motivate performance without necessarily creating “performance anxiety.”1 By considering the development of group work, skills, and contribution, introverted students can have a positive experience through active learning and peer-to-peer interactions.1

2. Try problem-based learning

Problem-based learning (PBL) enhances cooperative learning, subject-specific learning, iterative learning, and authentic learning.3 When APP is used between students or individually, it can help to strengthen critical thinking, collaboration, teamwork and creativity, thus maintaining its essentiality in students’ lives and strengthening peer-to-peer engagement.3 In one study, a PBL model was used in an entrepreneurship course, which led to a significant increase in student motivation.4 This study reported that the confidence gained through the APP process may play a role in learning. When students have more control over learning and establish a foundation of self-awareness and confidence, motivation and engagement are likely to improve.

3. Use a competitive and cooperative learning methodology

Cooperative learning (CL) is a way of working together to achieve a shared learning goal.5 An important attribute of successful LC is that groups are structured to ensure that members work interdependently and enjoy both social and academic benefits. By doing so, it is believed that CL can improve support for students who identify as introverted.

Interestingly, a study that examined cooperative learning versus competitive learning for reading comprehension on extrovert and introvert students found that introverts outperformed extroverts in terms of competitive learning in a learning-based environment. reading.6 This indicates that the type of assignment may also play a role in relation to the personality trait, as reading is an activity more likely to be associated with the introverted personality.

4. Include authentic and relevant assignments

In its simplest form, authentic teaching can be achieved by designing programs and assessments based on specific material in context that can be applied to real-world scenarios rather than generalized teaching.7 Therefore, delivering instruction more focused on the student’s environment can allow everyone to internalize information more effectively. A study of English as a second language sought to determine the effect of authentic learning instruction on personality type using immersion with audio-visual (A/V) technology.8 The use of authentic audio-visual materials has been found to significantly improve learning in both introverted and extroverted students, which promotes authentic teaching regardless of this personality type. Similar results were observed when project-based learning was used to compare speaking ability when examining English as a foreign language in cohorts of introverted versus extroverted students.9

5. Bring in the technology

Similar to the implementation of authentic teaching, the use of technology should not be overlooked in modern classrooms. The use of applied technologies such as audio-visual equipment and Audience Response Systems (ARS) is important in the field of student engagement and can be vital for students who identify as introverts. One study evaluated methods that can be used to increase student engagement in large classes of up to 500 students.ten When ARS technology was assessed in a first-year course, results showed that those who used the technology frequently were more likely to be engaged in the courses. However, the authors demonstrated that extraversion was not associated with an increased propensity to use technology and engage in class. ARS technology has proven to be an effective method for increasing classroom engagement for students who identify as introverts.

While introverts may appear superficially disinterested, consistent engagement can be achieved through the implementation of relatively simple accommodations. The introverted/extraverted component is just one element of the trait-based personality makeup. Adjusting to the unique personalities of the classroom can be a particular but manageable task for instructors.

Kimberly A. Pesaturo, PharmD, BCPS, is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacy Practice at Western New England University in Massachusetts. His research interests include the scholarship of teaching and learning and pediatrics/emergency medicine.

Benjamin M. Miller was a PharmD candidate at Western New England University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences at the time of writing. He will begin a PGY-1 pharmacy residency at Frederick Health Hospital in July 2022.

Isabella Moniz was a PharmD candidate at Western New England University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences at the time of writing.


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