July 27th, 2009

Introverted Students in the Classroom: How to Bring Out Their Best


To promote learning, we encourage our students to be actively involved in class discussions by asking and answering questions. Even if we do not include class participation in our grades, how a student behaves in class does influence our perception of the student’s abilities. These opinions may become important if the student’s grade in class is on the borderline or the student asks for a letter of recommendation.

One factor in evaluating students that has been ignored is temperament. To better understand a student’s behavior, we need to examine whether the student is an extrovert or an introvert. Since most people, including teachers, are extroverts; the introvert may not be understood and judged appropriately.

The main difference between the extrovert and the introvert is how each receives his energy. An extrovert is energized by external sources, such as people, activities, and objects. The introvert is the opposite. His sources of stimulation are internal ones such as ideas, impressions, and emotions. Extroverts and introverts also vary in their response to external stimulation. An extrovert thrives in an active setting and wants variety in the material presented. The introvert tries to reduce the amount of outside stimulation by behaving in a passive manner and prefers fewer topics presented in more depth.

Research has shown that extroverts and introverts process information differently using different parts of the brain and different neurotransmitters. The extrovert draws upon small amounts of information in his short term memory in developing his thoughts, while the introvert recalls thoughts stored in his long term memory to build more complex associations. The introvert needs more time, therefore, to develop his ideas and express them.

Based on these differences, we see that the extroverted student and the introverted student perform differently in the classroom. In a lively classroom the extrovert appears excited by the discussion and eager to participate, while the introvert may seem unenthusiastic and unsociable. These perceptions are not presenting a complete picture of our students. The introvert is so busy reflecting on the ideas that it does not occur to him to volunteer to answer questions.

Introverts prefer to work independently, but they may perform well in small groups. How much the introvert participates will depend upon the temperament of the other members. Extroverts who recognize the intelligence of the introvert can encourage him to be more active because introverts often are good at explaining material to others.

How can we, as instructors, provide support for introverts in their classroom? First we should be aware that the student sitting in the back may be an interested introvert and not an unmotivated student. The introvert is comfortable when allowed to observe and uncomfortable when pressured to perform. In order to get this student involved, we must directly ask the student to respond. Designing rotations so that all students are asked to participate will make the introvert more of a part of the class. Allowing the students to prepare questions at home by assigning the material for the next class discussion in advance can help.

Using required office hours to meet each student individually helps us to get to know our students better. As we become more aware of our students’ personalities, we can better prepare our students to meet our expectations and become more successful in our classes.

Dr. Tami Isaacs is a chemistry professor at Montgomery College in Germantown, Md.

  • Carmencita

    In my 29 years of teaching, this teaching and learning situation is what makes my teaching very fulfilling and rewarding. It gives my full attention to deal with introverted students and this is very challenging. Different students have varied ways to handling them because of individual differences and learning styles. As a teacher, we need to very patient, considerate, understanding and compassionate. If we love and enjoy our teaching, we should love and enjoy with our students.

    Dr. Carmencita L. Castolo
    Director, School of Distance Education
    Open University System, Polytechnic University of the Philippines
    Manila City, PHILIPPINES

    • keyane Abbassi

      Hi.Prof it s an interested student from Algeria wants to join your school . and how i could do that ? and what i supposed to do . till you give me details , you accept my best regards . K . ABBASSI

  • marwati

    i'm still questioning what kinds of tasks can be developed to make the introverted students become more active in the class. for example in the english subject (l2) in which usually they do not only silent but also have low ability…
    geez, any one of you can give me suggestion?
    thanks a lot….

    • Jing Hu

      As a introverted student in college these are the ways i felt more engaging in a class…

      1. Having the oppurtunity to have more one-on-one discussions with the professor readily available (office hours)
      2, Ask student to raise their hand instead of talking out loud the answers. (e.x Introverted student want to express their
      own views too but if the teacher doesn't give us a chance we go back to our introverted shell)
      3. Establish 2-3 small group activities instead of a larger group….
      4. IMPORTANTLY, i think THE BEST way that helped me step out of the shell is having a better
      communitcation with my professor since its so hard during class.

      Hope this helps….

  • Pingback: For the Love of Teaching: The Introverted Student()

  • Debra

    You may also have to consider cutlural and international differences among students as communication patterns and teaching norms differ accordingly. For instance, research has shown that in the Asian culture, many sutdents tend to talk less and listen more because the teacher is an authroity figure and highly respected in the classroom. In addition, those who speak English as a second language may be embarrased to speak out if their accent and English may be sub-standard. In addition, U.S. research has shown that African Americans and Hispanics tend to make more eye contact when talking and less when listening coupled with marked circularity in oral and written communication. So if you have a class of learners from diverse cultures, you may have to take this into consideration and lower your expectations for some students to be open communicators in class.

    Debra Ferdinand, Ph.D.

  • Patience

    This is very informative and true.
    I am an introvert and identify with the information in this article.
    In my early years in school, my teachers used to discover that I am a member of the class after our first semester is over
    They are usually astonised at my performance and wonder why they never heard my voice in class.

    Then in the next semesters before I leave for the next class, the teacher directs questions at me especially when no 'right' answers seem to be coming through. Sometimes i am asked to do math on the board or explain how I came to the answer…. I usually look foward eagerly to moving on to the next class so have a new first semester of quiet participation (or so I thought)

    I am now in graduate school for teacher certification and more actively involved in class (comparatively) although I still enjoy quiet participation.
    Now as an adult, I know why I was more comfortable just observing and being a part of the class- I am glad my teachers knew what they were doing all along.

    Your article is a well written one- I wonder if you were also an introvert in school?

  • Pingback: Motivating Introverted Students to Excel in the Classroom | Concordia Masters of Education()

  • Pingback: Classroom Activities for Introverted Students | Concordia Masters of Education()

  • fidelis

    what method of teaching can be used to teach an introvert in a class and why

  • Pingback: Thinking through the Power of Introverts in the Learning Environment | got2knowmore()

  • Pingback: Questioning Techniques- Facilitated Forum | Neelam's PIDP Learnings()

    ??????????,????????,??????????,???&???????????????????????????????7????????? ???????????????????????????? ????? ??????????????????????????? ????????? ????? ????????????????????????????????? ?IWC??? ??????? ????????? ???????????? ???&????? ??????????????????????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????? ?????????? http://www.msnbrand.com/brand-copy-IP-20.html

    ???????????????? ?????????????????N ???? ??????????? ??????????,?????? ?????????????? ???????????????????? ??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ?????????? http://www.ooowatch.com/tokei/chanel/index.html

  • ????N????????? ???,?????????,????N??,?????????,,???????????????????????????????????,??????????????.???No.1???????,?????????????????????????????????????????? ???????????????????? ???N??? ??????????.???????????????????? ?????????!?????????2????????
    100%???????????????!”??????????????? ????????? ??????????,????????????????????????????????????????????????? ?????????????? ????????????????? ????????? ??????????,???????????????-jck35??:?????????,??????,?????,?????,? ??????,????????,???????,???????,??????????, ?????????,????????,????????,D&G ?????,???? ?? .2013???????????????,???????????????????? ??????????????????????????????????? ?????????????????????.????????,??No.1??????????????????????????????ROLEX?????????????? ?????????????????????2???????,????? ??????? ??,????????? ???n??????? http://www.bagkakaku.com/vuitton_belt.html

  • ???????????????!
    ???????????????????????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????????????????????9????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? http://www.ooobrand.com/bags/hermes/index.html

  • ???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????
    ?? ????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ?? ???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????IWC????????????? http://www.bestevance.com/iwc/index.htm

  • Norbert

    Thanks very much for the article,my question is:With continueous motivation of introverts to actively participate in class discussions,they may eventally end in an extrovert world,now if they leave that college,won’t they turn back to their lifestyle or they would have completely changed to an extrovert?! and is there a possibility of an extrovert changing to an introvert?!Thankyou