As a writer, I am an introvert: I spend long hours alone with just my writing.
The Common Core State Standards, though, emphasizes the need for cooperative work, group work, team work and classroom situations. The speaking and listening standards, in particular, emphasizes the need for getting along with others. In the light of this emphasis, it’s been interesting to read a new book, QUIET: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.
One of the main premises of the book is introverts need space to work on their own.
If this is true–if solitude is an important key to creativity–then we might all want to develop a taste for it. We’d want to teach our kids to work independently. We’d want to give employees plenty of privacy and autonomy. Yet, increasingly we do just the opposite. (p. 75)
One of the interesting sources of information is from companies who design work environments. Int he early days of computing, there was a movement toward open office layouts, so that collaboration could easily take place. However, creativity was hampered and work output went down. Instead, work environments need places where creative people can be alone, in conjunction with open areas that can be easily accessed when the workers want. The key was to give workers control of their privacy, while still allowing collaboration when needed.
When we think about students in our classrooms, where are the private spaces for working?
The Common Core is encouraging group projects because so many of the new work environments require group work; that’s a laudable goal and the reasons behind it are valid. But in the midst of this, Susan Cain warns that introverts will have difficulty. She includes an appendix with a list of eight tips for educators. Here’s one:
Re-examine classroom “group-work.” Some collaborative work is fine for introverts, even beneficial. But it should take place in small groups–pairs or threesomes–and be carefully structured so that each child knows her role. p. 348-349
One of the most frustrating experiences of my son’s school career was a group project. The teacher asked the students to create a powerpoint for a social studies project. Think about it: for a powerpoint project, there is a natural division of labor. There will be one computer geek who volunteers to put the project together; there will be another student who likes to write and volunteers to do that; there will be another who doesn’t care about any of those things and my son was left with the task of looking up photos online and downloading them. Nothing wrong with that division of labor–except, that after they completed the project, the teacher changed the rules. He asked the students to vote on who did the most work and that student would get extra points.
Of course–the geeky powerpoint expert did the most work. But an assignment that asks a group to do a powerpoint has a natural division of labor inherent in the assignment. If the grading was based on who “did the most work,” the assignment itself was biased toward one person. Instead, the teacher should have asked each student to completely produce 5 slides each.
Also, in this instance the geeky powerpoint expert was more extroverted and volunteered to do the work of putting things together. My son, the introvert, sat back and waited to see what tasks were left. Would you consider him the lazy student and give him a worse grade? This type of situation is exactly what we must keep in mind, as we set up group work assignments.
Are you an introvert or extravert? Take Susan Cain’s Quiet Quiz.
Which of your students are introverts? Extroverts? Do they perform differently in group situations? How do you work with both types of needs?