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Supporting Introvert Learners with Remus Zhong

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As educators and trainers, we have definitely come across introvert learners in our classes and workshops. After all, introverts make up half of the population!

In an era where group work and open discussions are highly valued and frequently practised, the classroom has become a microcosm of an open-concept collaborative workspace. For introverts, such an environment can be stressful and less conducive for learning.

How can educators and trainers better support our introvert learners in the classroom? We speak to Remus Zhong, who is a trainer, speaker, and the author of The Introvert Teacher.

First of all, how do teachers or instructors identify an introvert learner in class?

Introversion is a preference based on the way a person recharges energy. In the case of introverts, they recharge by being on their own.

There will always be the stereotypical quiet learners who don’t say much, even when asked. They hardly talk to their peers, and they are commonly seen alone. But being quiet doesn’t mark a person as an introvert.

The surest clue to a person’s introversion is in a single trait:

They need ‘alone time’.

This need will surface from time to time, whether in the middle of a group discussion or when they’ve been working on an assignment or project for an extended time.

At this point of need, they may ask to be excused to go to the restroom or to be allowed to go and have a drink of water. They will, importantly, ask only for themselves, almost never along with a friend.

Finally, introverts never exude quite as much energy as their extrovert friends. They also tend to have milder temperaments and make eye contact for shorter periods of time.

What are common mistakes that teachers make when teaching introvert learners? How can these be rectified?

One mistake is insisting that a project or assignment has to be done in a specifically-sized group (e.g. 4-member teams). This can be difficult for some introvert learners, who may find it more productive to work on their own or with just one other person they feel comfortable with.

As long as they can stay on task and produce results, allow them to do so.

Specifically, some lessons call for focus and concentration. And it’s much easier to focus when you’re working on your own. For example, when it’s time to learn a new mathematical formula or new scientific concepts.

Save the group work for discussions of previously-taught lessons, so everyone has had time to come up with opinions and share their ideas. Group work is also useful when learning a language. This way, everyone can hear everyone else pronounce the words and use them in sentences.

Remember, the introverts in your class may not be the social butterflies the extroverts tend to be, but they will do just fine with a small number of close friends.

There’s no real need to ‘force’ them to interact with everyone around them. They’ll get to it in their own time, if they want to.

Make the introductions, do the ice-breaker activities, and play the team-building games. Just temper your expectations of having a highly-cohesive group of learners in a short time. Let the extroverts start the conversations and give the introverts time to get comfortable before joining in.

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

What is one misconception that people have of introvert learners?

Introverts aren’t always quiet and reserved.

When I conduct public workshops, especially on introversion-related subjects, I’ve noticed that once you get them started on something they are passionate in or know a lot about, they will keep going.

I had a room full of introverts during a session on ‘Being A Successful Introvert at Work’ and everybody was participative, vibrant, and engaged because they could identify with the examples I brought up and I encouraged them to discuss and share their own experiences.

Thankfully, introverts are relatively easy to settle down when you need them to. Just tell them to do so.

What are some ways that a teacher can get an introvert learner to willingly participate more in class?

Introverts are less likely to publicly display their knowledge or share their insights and ideas unless they are in a safe enough environment to do so.

One of the first things I go through when I train other educators is to show them how to create such an environment, where no mocking or jeering from the other learners is tolerated, and where the educator is open, respectful, and shows concern for his or her students.

Even then, some introvert learners may still prefer to sit on their answers until someone else proves them right.

Perhaps a re-definition of ‘participation’ is needed.

Instead of an impromptu question that may put introvert learners on the spot, it may help to assign them questions beforehand, so that they have time to prepare their answers.

The answers need not be expressed verbally, but may be submitted in writing, if they are so inclined, or even in digital format, which can then be projected on the screen.

This is where audience response/engagement software is particularly useful. You can create polls, ask for opinions, and get everyone involved through their own mobile devices.

Keen to better engage the introverts in your audience? Learn more about introvert communications from Remus Zhong. Visit tueetor.com or download our free app. Call us at +65 6206 6660 or drop us a message on WhatsApp at 9883 3867