How do you handle introverts in the classroom?


Introverts, unite! Often, whether it is interviewing guests on the More Than Ordinary podcast or talking to teachers in general, I ask how they accommodate students who are more introverted and don’t WANT to work in groups.

Inevitably, I get the answer that,

“People HAVE to work in groups in their jobs. Students need to learn to work with other people.”

Jennifer looking sadly at the laptop

I am certainly willing to admit that learning to work with other people is a necessary part of being a functioning member of society. However, I would like from teachers a little more acknowledgment that group projects are not the answer for everyone.

I teach graduate students and in every class where there is a group assignment, students have the option of being a group of one. There are several reasons for this, most of which apply to students at any level.

  • Some students may not do their share of the work, leaving others the choice of receiving a poor grade or doing twice the work. I’ve had students who elect to do the project individually say, “I end up doing it all anyway, so I may as well get all of the credit.”
  • Getting together outside of class can be a logistical problem. Not everyone has reliable internet. This may be because they live in a remote area or they can’t afford it at home and have no ride to the library.
  • Coordinating schedules may be difficult due to work, sports, child care or other commitments after school.
  • but the biggest one is …

SOME PEOPLE ARE HAPPIER AND MORE PRODUCTIVE WORKING ALONE

I completely understand those students who don’t want to work in groups. I’m not a “people person”. That is a whole different post, but my point is that some people find it exhausting to be around other people for extended periods. They feel calmer, happier and more able to focus when they are working on their own. After I’ve spent days speaking at conferences and meeting with one group after another, I just want to go home, sit in my office and write code for eight hours.

I wasn’t any different in the seventh grade. The only difference now is that I have more control over my schedule and I can go in my office and shut the door, which is not something I could do at twelve years old.

Thankfully, group projects were not nearly as common when I was a student, because I would have absolutely hated school – even more than I did (that, too, is another post or two).

So, my question to teachers is, how DO you accommodate the introverts in a school full of group projects?

red line

I’m always thinking about education, that’s why I make better educational games to teach math and social studies. Read about them here.

problem from Fish Lake

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