Reflections:Making room for introverts

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Reflections Photo: L.. Schmidt

Watching Susan Cain’s TED talk (Feb, 2012): The power of introverts had me reflecting upon my experiences as someone who sits on the fence as I have a few extroverted tendencies as well as a lot of introverted ones. While my extroverted self can usually get me through a day of busyness, loud environments and group activities, I need to retreat for a walk alone outside during breaks to recharge, and a need a few more days of alone time before I can engage again. But what about those who find it difficult to get through a high stimulation environment in the first place? This TED talk highlights to me the importance of building an inclusive and balanced classroom environment.

Thompson (2012) explained the differences between introverts and extroverts this way: “Introverts thrive in the inner world of thought and ideas and in close, intimate relationships. Extroverts thrive in the outer world of interaction and large, constant social exchange ” (para 9). Cain (2012) and Thompson (2012) both described classrooms as being heavily influenced by Western society where extraverted behaviours are both valued and seen as the cultural norm. This, Thompson (2012) argued is compounded by the fact that extraverted people are skilled with “ . . . dominating socially” ( para 13).

In the classroom, this preference to extraversion translates to activities and lecture formats that are active, diverse (Issacs, 2009) and value “. . . quick decision-making, outspokenness, and social confidence among others” (Higgin, 2016 para 1). Extraverted students are rewarded for their active participation, while introverted students “ . . . are encouraged to participate more” (Higgin, 2016 para 2). This can be challenging for the introvert who needs more time to construct complex associations from ideas stored in his long term memory (Isaac, 2009). Applicable to both introverts and extraverts is the concern Cain (2012) expressed about the increasing departure from independent work as she felt creative works are best done in isolation, for in a group, people will mimic others’ opinions and not express their own unique perspectives.

To build an inclusive and balanced classroom environment for both introverts and extroverts lets examine how I can incorporate the following strategies offered by Thompson (2012) and Higgin (2016) to an online perinatal course for registered nurses:

Allow for choice

Giving students the choice of which learning activities and assignments they wish to participate in will allow for students to select the one that best matches their needs. For example, I could offer the students the choice of participating in an online discussion forum reviewing a case study or schedule a couple of skype or teleconference times where students could call in to discuss the case. I could also offer students the opportunity to work either in a group or individually to develop a patient teaching sheet about a post partum topic of the students’ choice.

Allow for alternative expressions of participation

Students could be given the choice of they wish to participate in open discussion forums on various perinatal topics or submit their own reflections about topics of their choice. If they decide to reflect on their own topic they could choose to go out into the community and visit a prenatal class for example to hear how and what parents to be are being taught about the topic.

Allow a platform for students to be able to communicate and share information on their own.

Providing a student lead Q and A platform promotes the principles of peeragogy by providing students the opportunity to learn from each other. There are several products available free online like Piazza that can be used to meet this need.

Create flow between social and reflective activities (Higgins, 2016)

Higgins (2016) stated, “(e)xtroverts and introverts depend on each other to do great things” (para 3). Cain (2012) also recognized the importance of having a balance for both sides. To do this Higgins (2016) suggests following up a social activity “ . . . with  more thoughtful solo or small-group reflection, distillation, and synthesis” (para 11). In the online perinatal course, students could as a group problem solve through a case study and then self-reflect on their own learning privately through journaling.


Cain, S., (Feb, 2012). TED Talk: The power of introverts. Retrieved from

Higgin, T. (2016) BLOG 5 Classroom Strategies That Help Introverts and Extroverts Do Their Best Work Key ways teachers and schools can foster a more personality-inclusive environment. Common Sense Graphite. Retrieved from

Isaacs, T. (2009) Introverted Students in the Classroom: How to Bring Out Their Best Faculty Focus. Retrieved from

Thompson, S., (2012). Introvert? Extrovert?  Tips for a Balanced Classroom Jan/Feb Canadian Teacher Magazine. Retrieved from canadianteacher.archives