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Introversion has its merits, often yielding comments nurtured by deep contemplation. But a quick paced classroom discussion isn’t friendly to those students who are introverted and need time to warm up before contributing their thoughts--or who find it enervating and are resistant to participation. We want our classrooms to be equitable--so how do we include introverted students so that they feel welcome and aren’t marginalized during traditionally extroverted activities and assessments? 

A quick search on Google will yield countless ideas on fun and creative forms of informal assessments. These ideas include the following:

  • Have students perform a dramatic reenactment of the historical event they read about in their textbook. 
  • The classic “Think-Pair-Share” exercise in which students work solo, then in pairs, then present to the class. 
  • Choral readings, presentations, talk shows, Socratic seminars! 

There are so many options, many of them favoring extroverted students. 

But what about the introverted student? The student who hears their teacher announce, “Okay now, find a group!” and feels their anxiety spike? The student whose mind goes blank as they stand in front of the class? The student who easily recedes in the video classroom? 

In the context of remote instruction, introversion plays a critical role in student learning. Introverted students may further quiet, providing less visibility into their wellbeing and learning, leading them to feel “unseen,” which as educators know, can block learning and in some cases, lead to academic misconduct. 

What are some activities that teachers can employ to assess students’ understanding of the material with this type of student in mind?

“Write Your Own Quiz” 

Have each student submit a question and its answer for a quiz. This is a great way to get students to think critically about what they’ve learned and gives you a picture of students’ understanding at a macro- and micro-level. Their choice of question will tell you if they’ve understood the topic holistically, and the answer will tell you if they understood its specifics. Then, if you're designing your exam on Gradescope, you can choose to assimilate student-written quiz questions into the exam itself at the end of the unit.

Four Corners without the Corners

In the physical classroom, the Four Corners exercise, in which each corner of the room represents a different answer or idea, can be a great opportunity to get the students out of their seats and moving, as well as visually representing answers and ideas. But it can also be challenging for some students – introverted students, students who can’t move around the room as easily, or students who are afraid of being physically singled out. A great alternative, that conveniently also works well in remote learning situations, is to use hand signals or different colored index cards, which students can hold up to their webcam or from their desks. This still gives the benefit of the visual feedback and lets you gauge understanding, without the challenges of the traditional exercise.

Ticket to Leave

Use the chat function in your video classroom or have students turn in index cards to leave at the end of class. There are so many options on how to use this tool. You can mix up what they write day-to-day or use the same prompt every day to track growth and gaps. Have students write a question they have or rate their confidence in the topic from 1-10. Give a brief prompt and have them write a few thoughtful sentences on it. Ask a multiple-choice question and have them jot down the letter answer. The possibilities are numerous and can easily be tailored to your class or individual lectures.

Draw It!

This is a great exercise for visual learners and the perennial doodlers. Have students draw a scene or even sketch out a few panels as a comic strip to illustrate what they’ve learned. Draw a pivotal scene from the reading or doodle a chemical reaction or a physics problem. For the online classroom, use something like Sketch.io. Reluctant students can rest assured that their work won’t be judged for artistic merit; stick figures and shaky lines will do the job.

Journaling (5x5, 3/2/1)

Journaling can be a great way to encourage students to think critically about what they’ve learned and done in class. In a physical classroom, have students bring in a notebook at the beginning of the year that they’ll leave in your class and set aside time every week for journaling. For remote learning, have students create a blog or use Google Docs to share their journal remotely. Regular journaling can also help students and teachers to track their progress throughout the course. Something they didn’t understand in October may prove to be second nature by January. Use prompts like 3/2/1 (ie. 3 things they learned this week; 2 things they didn’t understand; and 1 question they have) or a 4x4 (ie. 4 things they are most excited about in class and then 4 reasons why each of those things excited/interested/resonated with them). Alternatively, have them write about a specific topic or have them ELI5 a topic they’ve learned about. 

Technology

I’m a big fan of using tech in the classroom and particularly love to use my students’ phones to my advantage. There are so many live polling and Q&A tools that can be employed for checking students’ understanding (and making them switch from TikTok) like Kahoot! and PollEverywhere. I particularly like to use Google Slides’ Q&A feature, which allows students to ask questions in real-time and anonymously. This is a great way to let students ask the questions that they worry are “dumb,” when they might otherwise sit through the whole lecture not understanding some key topic for fear of speaking up. Another tech option is to utilize the unlimited submissions feature within Turnitin Feedback Studio in order to see how students synthesize feedback while drafting an assignment. You can view the Similarity Scores your students receive on drafts leading up to final submission, which can informally illustrate which areas of the curriculum need to be revisited.

These are a few great options for creating an inclusive classroom. For decades, many teaching techniques have focused on pulling the introverted student “out of their shell.” But much can be said in support of creating a classroom that is accessible to all learning types and highlighting individual students’ strengths. With the growing conversation around accessible spaces and the success of books like Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, there is a sea change in support of creating more inclusive spaces for introverted people and the classroom is the perfect place to demonstrate that inclusivity.


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