Every classroom has a mix of introverts and extroverts. We often think of introverts as being more challenging to teach because they seem less engaged, but teaching extroverts requires intentional planning as well.
To best engage your students, it is important to have a balanced approach to teaching so no student falls behind. When teaching extroverts, keep these tips in mind.
1. Know the difference.
Knowing the difference between introversion and extroversion is the first step in teaching extroverts and introverts alike. Many people confuse introversion and extroversion with personality. Instead, these labels define energy sources. Extroverts gain energy from being with others while introverts are energized by time alone. It is possible for someone to be an outgoing, people-loving introvert or for an extrovert to be quiet and more withdrawn.
2. Channel social energy.
Teaching extroverts requires channeling their social energy. While group work can be an excellent tool (see #4), a classroom setting also often includes lecture and solo work. Help your extroverts channel their social energy by creating classroom rules. If your extroverts are dominating the conversation, create a rule that once you’ve spoken, you have to wait to participate again until others have spoken. In reverse fashion, you can also specifically call on students you know enjoy talking to share their thoughts with the class or moderate a classroom discussion to encourage lively debate.
3. Minimize Distractions
Extroverted students might excel in group work or participation, but struggle to focus during solo work. To help minimize distractions in your classroom, consider how you set up desks or tables in your classrooms. Keep distracting items (aquarium, windows, etc.) at the back of the classroom and space out often-visited stations (trash can, pencil sharpener, etc.) to avoid students grouping together. During class, be attentive to distracting or distracted students. If a student is getting off-topic or taking up too much time, thank them for their participation and open up the discussion for other voices. If you have students who struggle to focus on the lesson, carve out clear time during or at the end of class to let students walk around the room and work or talk.
4. Create Time for Group Work
Teaching extroverts and introverts requires balance. While introverts need time alone to work, extroverts thrive with others. Not every project or assignment needs to be done in groups, but you can better engage your extroverts by offering it as an option. For assignments that can be done alone, offer students the option of working in pairs or small groups, but enforce your classroom rules and monitor their work to ensure productive work time does not turn in to gossip time. Be sure to also assign universal group work, but cater the assignment to groups specifically. Ask your students to solve a real-world problem and brainstorm solutions together or go through guided discussions on class material.
5. Encourage Their Extroversion
Extroversion is not better than introversion, nor is introversion better than extroversion. When teaching extroverts, remind them to be mindful of their introverted peers but encourage their natural gifts and learning styles. Compliment your students when they ask good questions, participate enthusiastically, and cooperate well in group work. Focus on the positives of extroverted students rather than the negatives and give them space in your classroom.
Balanced teaching can be challenging but incredibly rewarding as you watch your students excel. Check out our STEM teaching resources for more tips on engaging your students well.