Consider Your Introverts

Are schools biased against introverted students? Find out why this is a problem and what we should do about it.

Let’s begin with the definition: being an introvert means that you prefer low-stimulation environments. And as opposed to how the term is used in popular culture, introversion doesn’t equate to shyness. Introverts don’t “hate people”, either- they just need to control the amount of time they spend with others, because being by themselves is when they can recharge.

Truth is, most classrooms are built for extroverts, including the ones in KIS. Discussions are encouraged in every course, and no team project would start without a group brainstorming session. It is clear that “interactive education” and “collaborative learning” are the trending classroom keywords. Many classes even involve assessments in the form of a discussion, where students who do not speak up as much or have trouble jumping into a conversation find it impossible to get a good grade. And grades aren’t the only indicators- those further up the extraversion scale are more likely to land club leadership positions or even a simple reputation.

In fact, studies have found that people come up with more- and often better- ideas when left to think of them alone, instead of being put in a brainstorming group. Simple logic would seem to follow that more heads would produce more ideas, but being put in a group  instantly introduces many limiting factors to creativity: groupthink, anxiety of criticism, overstimulation… the list continues. Research has been conducted on how letting people brainstorm individually comes with many benefits, and yet this is ignored time and time again in the lesson plan.

Schools, consider your introverts. You have too many to ignore. Don’t penalize students for not speaking up- give them other ways to participate. Students don’t need to be told that “working with other people is a crucial part of success”- preferring to work alone does not equate to inability to be compatible with others. When different learning strategies benefit different students, it is only sensible to employ a combined approach with borrowed parts from each.

Students, consider your introverts. If you are not one yourself, there are many around you. Be aware of everyone you are sharing this space with. You learn from each other just as much as from the teacher, and to leave introverts in the blind spot is to forgo so much diversity. The cost of never taking the extra step to listen a little harder or enquiring a little further is high.

It must be said that this is not an argument for eliminating encouragement of social skills. Introverts can develop extraverted skills in school, too. But the best kind of learning occurs when introverts and extraverts can learn from each other, in a flux of being in and out of their comfort zones. We have much to gain by removing the extraversion bias from what is arguably society’s most important institution. No, this is not an argument for elimination, but rather for diversity and acceptance. Consider your introverts. Listen to the quiet.

*Many pieces of data & opinions are referenced from Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. All writing is original.

*While the common term used is “extrovert”, the correct terminology used in scholastic discussion is “extravert”.

–Jisoo Hope Yoon (’19)

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