Brains, Body & Mind · Education & School

Susan Cain on the Power of Introverts


In a recent conversation with educators on Twitter (using the #edchat hashtag) the question was raised about how to make our grading of projects and learning about student “growth” rather than about finishing the task or activity.  More importantly, how do we consider the growth of all types of students?

Project-based learning is a hot-topic in the education world that poses some interesting challenges for introverted students.  For many teachers “projects” immediately brings to mind “group projects” or “group work” – can a project really be done alone?  Students get paired or self-select into groups and they accomplish posters, 3D models, presentations or infinite other possible tasks.  Rarely are projects done solo.

As a self-diagnosed Ambivert who relishes time with groups – but prefers them smaller in number – I think I had it easy growing up.  On the spectrum between introversion and extroversion I land closer to the middle than either side (though, truthfully, we all are known to fluctuate).  I could do Silent Sustained Reading (SSR) or perform a comedic musical routine in front of the class.  Group projects weren’t an issue for me.  And I’m not the exception.

Susan Cain says that research shows about 1 in 4 people (read: 1 in 4 of our students) is an introvert and gains energy from quiet and more solitary situations.  How do we challenge them appropriately and uniquely – when they are likely overshadowed by the noise and attention created by the extroverts in the room or in their project group?  Cain’s story and perspective reminds us that we must consider a persons temperament when we evaluate their behavior, performance – perhaps especially in project-based work.

How do you support introversion in your school?  What are ways that society favors or rewards extroversion? 

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