How to Help Extroverts Thrive in the Classroom

Over the past several years, there has been a great effort in the popular media to redeem the term “introversion” from something that almost feels pathological to a valid manner of processing world — one that teachers, colleagues, family members and friends should encourage and embrace. We’ve done so ourselves here at Edudemic, and for good reason: the traditional classroom tends to validate extroverts far more than introverts, and it’s important that we even the scales.

But that’s not to say that extroverted learners don’t have their own unique needs in the classroom. After all, the extroverted tendency towards socialization and experience can be their own downfall if it leads to distraction throughout the school day. What’s more, there are many aspects of learning that necessarily draw on more introverted skills, like sitting at a desk and reading quietly, and extroverts may require extra coaching in these areas. And as many within the extrovert-introvert discourse have pointed out, few students (or teachers, for that matter) are all one or the other all of the time. Rather, introversion and extroversion lie on continuums that one given student will slide up and down throughout the day. As such, it’s best for everybody involved when teachers account for both processing styles throughout the day.

So just what is extroversion? It’s actually quite simple: extroverts gain their energy through social situations and feel more drained when they are alone, while introverts are exactly the opposite. Let’s take a closer look at the strengths and weaknesses extroverts bring to the table, and how teachers can use this knowledge to help extroverts harness their social energy and thrive in the classroom and beyond.

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Photo Credit: Francisco Osario

The Power of Extroverts

Extroverts by definition are social creatures. To them, learning is every bit a shared experience. In the best of worlds, extroverts add energy and verbal enthusiasm to a classroom. They can motivate and encourage their classmates, and they love working on teams. When all of that energy is properly harnessed, extroverts are sure to spark and contribute to interesting discussions, as they are at ease with verbal communication. They can also make excellent group leaders, as they’re not afraid to speak their minds or advocate vocally for those around them. And of course, extroverts make excellent leads in the class play — though don’t underestimate the introverts; you never know what talents will pop up on stage.

Where Extroverts Need a Little Help

The most extroverted of students will struggle when it comes to quieter, lonesome tasks like reading, research and writing. All of that socializing can easily become a distraction and even a disruption in the classroom to both extroverted students and those around them. It can be difficult for extroverts to read cues about quieting down, as socialization in their minds is always a good thing; this can lead to the need for disciplinary action. While extroverts might be a great go-to for sparking discussion, they are more prone to speak without thinking, to dominate discussions, to interrupt when others are speaking, and to respond without listening closely to what has just been said. Some extroverts find themselves worrying excessively about how others perceive them, as they are so socially-focused (introverts struggle with this as well, though for different reasons).

How to Harness Extrovert Strengths and Minimize Weaknesses

1. Do Group Projects

Extroverts get their best ideas and do the most work when they operate hand in hand with other people; group projects will allow them to do just this. However, it’s often a good idea to separate friends into different groups to avoid distracting temptations. Depending on the project, it can also be a good idea to separate introverts and extroverts, so that neither group becomes frustrated with the others’ processing style or feels like their voice isn’t being heard.

2. Teach Self-Regulation

Mindfulness is a crucial skill for all students to develop, but it is particularly important for extroverts when it comes to navigating relationships with other students and motivating themselves when they don’t have a choice about doing more introverted tasks. Either one-on-one or as a classroom lesson, coach extroverts on taking their turn, as well as on the structure they might need for work they do alone. They might, for instance, work well with a tight schedule for doing their homework that also incorporates breaks for social time to keep them motivated as they go. Alternatively, they might want to work with a homework buddy or a tutor to keep those energy levels charged high and add a little accountability into their routine. Whatever route is ultimately taken should keep the extroverted risks in mind while also allowing space for healthy socialization.

Self-regulation should also be about paying attention to how they’re behaving throughout the day in the classroom. It’s well worth teaching a lesson on the differences between extroverts and introverts so that both personality types will be mindful of what their peers are going through. It’s even better when you can develop a language for talking about all of this, so when, for example, an extrovert is dominating the discussion, you can simply say, “Great contribution! Now who else has an opinion to add?” and the extrovert will know it’s time to pull back and make room for others.

3. Build Talking Breaks Into the Daily Schedule

As packed as the classroom schedule may be, taking regular breaks for the whole class to rejuvenate can really help power everyone through the rest of the day. For extroverts, this should be a time when they are free to get out of their chairs and talk as they see fit. For introverts, this should be a time to sit quietly, think, and recover.

4. Play Collaborative Games

Group projects and discussion aren’t the only ways to build socialization into the everyday classroom experience. Collaborative games are a fun and exciting route, and one the introverts in the classroom will also love as long as they are given the rules beforehand to master and think about. Lesson plans that involve acting, debating, and other kinds of performing will also be exciting to the die-hard extrovert. These kinds of lesson plans work even better when they’re given in the moment rewards, as these are particularly meaningful to the extrovert type.

5. Let Them Talk Out Conflict

Extroverts think by talking, so when they’re engaged in a conflict with another student, be sure to give them ample time to talk it out, whether directly with the other student, with you, or with a trusted adult. If the conflict is with an introvert, have the introvert write or draw out their feelings beforehand, and stick close by to help referee. Outside of moments of conflict, work with extroverts to slow down and think through problems rationally and structurally before rushing forward with an answer. For extroverts who are really struggling, this may require one-on-one prompting until they’ve mastered this kind of slower logic.

The Takeaway

Extroverts and introverts both bring great strengths to the table, if only the strengths and needs of each personality type are discussed outright in the classroom and understood at a deep level. In fact, both types have much they can learn from each other. Only by thinking about what both these personality types bring to the table can we help everyone thrive in the classroom — and what a richer place it will be.

How do you nurture extroverts and introverts in the classroom? Tell us your best tips in the comments below or via Twitter @ Edudemic!

8 Comments

  1. Sree Aurovindh

    December 3, 2014 at 10:58 am

    I think it becomes important for students in particular extroverts to engage in collaborative learning processes and to take part in various engaging discussions. As specified in the article, Extroverts tend to voice out whatever they think in order to learn better. This makes it interesting as it provides a positive motivation in the learning .

    I think one of the aspects that help extroverts thrive in classroom is to build communities that surrounds them in day to day class activities. These communities may be just group of friends who should help them understand their goals and motivate them towards positive learning and to develop knowledge through interactions.

    I think conflict resolution is an integral part in the learning as well. When a conflict happens between a pair of students it becomes imperative that students should be taught to put forward their reasons and set out exact for and against points and argue on them. In addition, they should be taught to understand the basic argumentation skills and on when to seek the advice of the teacher so that they can help them intervene in the discussion. This would facilitate it much better than having the teacher supervise the session at all times.

    • Abhay Shankar

      December 8, 2014 at 10:55 pm

      I agree with @Aurovindh but I would also like to mention that sometimes the teacher can help the extrovert students when they are in a conflict by clearly observing them and giving comments and suggestions regarding how they could improve their conversation skills so that they can be more assertive in their views.

      • Leah Levy

        December 9, 2014 at 8:07 am

        All great ideas!

  2. Shwetha Radhakrishna

    December 9, 2014 at 7:13 pm

    Some very nice thinking put into words! I have always believed that the Extroverts have it very easy. Reading this article makes me feel it is not so true.

    Being an introvert, I totally agree with you that the Extroverts thrive in Group projects. However, I feel that it is not a great idea to separate out the introverts and the extroverts. There needs to be an effort from both the sets in order to gain the most out of the learning process. This is how we grow. This is how we learn.

    Having smaller groups could possibly be a better idea. But, I really liked the rest of your ideas. Nice article!

    • Leah Levy

      December 10, 2014 at 9:47 am

      Glad you enjoyed! And point well-taken. I wondered about that myself. I think in the end it will come down to a mix of both approaches. I think there are some projects for which separation will really help, and others where it’s good to encourage students to work together across the introversion/extroversion. Love the smaller group idea!

      • Atreya Taware

        December 10, 2014 at 5:48 pm

        Great ideas ! I agree with @Shwetha’s point of not separating introverts and extroverts. On the contrary they should be made to work well and understand each other. Introverts can be initially bogged down by the presence of extroverts, but I believe that more than any other introvert, an extrovert would be able to generate a response from the introverts ! Extroverts a easy going and gel well with everyone and hence would be the perfect foil for the introverts in the group. On the contrary, if you put juts introverts in a group, they could be just left staring at each other, without much discussion (just saying !). What i mean to say is that, a mix of both kinds is what would make a successful group: the open minded, conversation starting extroverts and the much more thoughtful introverts !

      • Megha Tiwari

        December 10, 2014 at 10:33 pm

        Adding to Shwetha’s and Leah’s comment I feel that in a class both types of student exists – introvert and extrovert, and its very true that both of them succeed in life.
        The great thing about education today is that system is designed and revolves around both of them.
        These days, there is equal weightage for group projects, assignments, presentations, final exams and individual modules rather than just a final exam. May be a student cannot score in some task because of his introvert-ness or extrovert-ness but the system gives them enough opportunity to bring out best of them so that they cannot bring best in one task they can still do their best in others. I being extrovert take this article as a great learning and will implement above mentioned techniques to get the most out of me.

  3. Swetha Baskaran

    December 10, 2014 at 10:41 pm

    It was refreshing to read about problems faced by extroverts. I agree that there is probably too much talk about introverts and efforts to motivate them and increase collaboration among lurkers. Especially with all the recent hype about adult ADD, the focus has been on introducing practices to increase participation. Student who fall on the other side of the spectrum have problems too and a learner centric approach is necessary to make sure their preferences are represented.

    It would be good idea to have different kinds of collaborative activities like online group activities, class time discussions among small groups or pairing up students for reflecting on concepts discussed. To keep extroverts motivated the group sizes can be differed every time and the members picked at random.

    When there is good diversity in a group, a mix of introverts and extroverts there is bound to be some conflict. However, in the long run extroverts will learn to adapt to different people and practice self regulation. Both group will bring different dynamics to the table and this will helpin aquality discussion.