Some Quiet Please

I dreaded the phony participation in law school, miss the authentic, quiet, discussion of my undergraduate classes, and struggle with telling A-students’ parents “your student needs to participate more”.  After reading parts of Susan Cain’s Quiet and watching the TED Talk (so I can pretend I read the whole book), I Instappered (yes, that’s a verb) about 40 articles on introverted students and participation in an attempt to develop a more informed opinion. A write up in the Marshall Memo about Cain and Emily Klein’s recent article in Independent School indicates that several characteristics of just great classrooms support our Quiet students.

 Change classroom dynamics. Teachers should think about orchestrating classroom engagement, defined as how absorbed students are in a variety of tasks. Instead of whole-group discussions, this might involve “think, pair, share” with students reflecting, writing, and then discussing with one other classmate. This is also helpful for extroverts, who benefit from slowing down their thinking and putting a filter between their brains and their mouths. The best classroom structures push both introverts and extroverts out of their comfort zones. 

Wait five or ten seconds before calling on students. This gives all students more time to think and shy students a chance to gather their courage.

Coach introverted students. Cain and Klein encourage teachers to talk individually with shy students to prep them for a comment their might make in class or a question they might think about answering.

Encourage deliberate practice. Many students do their best work taking on challenging tasks alone.

As Cain and Klein write, “In order to flourish, quiet students need to have the ability, for at least part of the day, to have some control over the amount of stimulation that is right for them to optimally learn.”

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