Gamification in the Adult Classroom

Do games have a place in the adult learning environment? Certainly, games can be fun. They can be engaging, make you smile, create competition, help you learn in a shared environment, and of course pass the time. Yet, when it comes to digital gaming in the classroom, I wondered about their merit. Today, we are inundated by digital everything. Students cannot survive for long without their Smart Phones, iPads, iPods, not to mention all the free apps and games they use to pass the time. I also considered that digital games are often played solo – by individuals on their own.

boyscoutbadges

https://maggiecakes.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/boyscoutbadges.jpg

I believe gaming is a healthy activity at any age. I’ve participated in Jeopardy type games at professional development sessions (great post-assessment/learning tool), enjoy playing  wii games, love to play crib and other card games, attended Girl Guides and collected all sorts of badges as I mastered new learning, and of course the list goes on and on. So, why I ask do I feel hesitant about digital gaming in the classroom? I dug in and did a bit of research on game-based learning solutions and discovered a number of great benefits to using technology and games to assist adult learners in mastering course content. Authors of the article “Do game-based solutions need to be digital?” make a strong case for technology to be used because of the benefits of:

1. Efficiency: Less manpower needed (of course for someone like me this would require a fair bit of prior work, but once the game was up and running could be much more efficient)

2. Analytics ~ I am thinking a high end sort of game – where the instructor serves as the “administrator” of the game could easily run analytics and see who’s participating, what level they may be requiring assistance with, how they are progressing

3. Digital is where most younger adult learners are at!

In the dental hygiene world of education, technologies are being used to gamify students’ learning experiences in a way that promotes critical thinking in the “virtual” world. I located a presentation reporting on a research project that utilized avatars to teach cross-cultural competency (knowledge and understanding) among 71 dental hygiene students. You can read more on the study here: http://69.59.162.218/ADEA2014/NI-008.1795.pdf

Students “gamed” with avatars during the dental hygiene assessment of female clients of either Asian or Arab ethnicity. Results of the study indicated that the use of the avatar-mediated case scenarios and content introduced a level of cognitive dissonance. This challenged students to resolve the conflict between two differing yet valid paradigms of treatment related to culture.

While I don’t believe we should gamify every bit of content in post-secondary education, I have come to a decision on gamification in the classroom. I absolutely feel that there are definite benefits to adding creative digital learning opportunities into the mix for adult learners. I would really like to offer dental hygiene students some of these creative and less threatening learning experiences within the dental hygiene curriculum. Now, I just need to write a grant and be awarded some funding to get started…

Reference:

Draeger, N. (2014, May 30). Do game-based solutions need to be digital? Ronin Studios & Consulting. Retrieved from: http://www.roninsc.com/blog/2014/05/30/do-game-based-solutions-need-to-be-digital/

Newcome, T. et al. Avatar-mediated case scenarios to evaluate cross-cultural knowledge and understanding: Retrieved from http://69.59.162.218/ADEA2014/NI-008.1795.pdf

Teachers as Managers…

themanager-mdBut, you may be thinking, I’m not a manager, I’m an educator. At face value, this is true, but it seems that , according to many sources, educators are also managers. To elaborate, educators need to also be engaged in classroom management, a multi-strategy approach that “seeks to establish and sustain an orderly environment so that students can engage in meaningful academic learning” (Evertson & Weinstein, 2006, p. 4). Classroom management also “aims to enhance student social and moral growth” (Evertson & Weinstein, 2006, p 4). Some examples of classroom management strategies that educators undertake to create an effective learning environment for students to learn include:

  • Develop caring, supportive relationships with and among students
  • Promote and support the development of self-regulation in students
  • Organize and implement instruction in ways that optimize students’ access to learning
  • Model the behaviour you want to see in your students such as acting respectfully, showing empathy and caring, effective use of questions,…
  • Treat adult students as adults
  • Be creative and efficient
  • Use appropriate interventions to assist students who are exhibiting unacceptable behaviour

So, although one may think of classroom management being essentially about managing disruptive behaviour, it is really about so much more.

Interestingly, educators with high emotional intelligence (EI) are more able to create effective teacher-student relations that in turn support student learning and engagement. They tend to be more caring and able to recognize students’ needs. In turn, students seem to recognize this and work harder for these instructors (Ramana, 2013). Interestingly, being attentive and receptive to student needs is thought to serve as a mediating factor in reducing misconduct in the learning environment! Along with these benefits, research findings also suggest that those with high EI also have more well developed coping mechanisms in place to manage stress and burnout. In this day and age of multi-tasking and balancing of work, home, and health, one can’t go wrong with learning more about EI!

Here’s a website that succinctly explains EI, associated benefits, and ideas of how to further develop EI. http://www.helpguide.org/articles/emotional-health/emotional-intelligence-eq.htm

So, if you’re considering choices for upcoming courses, think about those that assist you in further developing your emotional intelligence, which in turn will pay off in your work as a “manager”. Even though I believe that I have high EI, I will definitely be reading more on this topic. Being open and visible to learning as an educator, and learning more about how to be a very effective classroom manager are some of my top priorities for professional development!

For further reading, check out the article “Emotional intelligence and teacher effectiveness: An analysis in the Voice of Research journal. Here’s the link: : http://www.voiceofresearch.org/doc/Sep-2013/Sep-2013_5.pdf

References:

Evertson, C.M. and Weinstein, C.S. (2006). Handbook of classroom management: Research, practice and contemporary issues. Lawrence Erlbaum Associated.

Ramana, T.V. (2013, September). Emotional intelligence and teacher effectiveness. Voice of Research. 2(2). Retrieved from: http://www.voiceofresearch.org/doc/Sep-2013/Sep-2013_5.pdf

Segal, J. and Smith, M. (2015, February). Emotional Intelligence: Key skills for raising emotional intelligence. HelpGuide.org. Retrieved from: http://www.helpguide.org/articles/emotional-health/emotional-intelligence-eq.htm

Visible Learning: See the Teaching, See the Learning, Make it Visible!

What does “visible learning” mean to you? I’ve been exploring this concept now for a few weeks, and wanted to share a bit of what I’ve discovered and what it means to me. According to John Hattie, Visible Learning is the enhanced role of the educator in evaluating their own teaching efforts (2013). This process makes teaching visible to students, and student learning visible to teachers. It is, in fact, the deliberate way of viewing learning through the eyes of students, and making changes to your teaching efforts as needed to promote and support the growth of learning among your student learners. Visible learning image                   https://debsplace.wikispaces.com/Visible+Learning

Although this concept makes very good sense in supporting everyone’s learning, according to the research it hasn’t been adopted by the masses. In fact, only about 50% of teachers currently are supporting visible learning (Mauger, 2015). Other interesting findings suggest that teachers spend about 70% of their lesson time talking, and only incorporate 1 learning activity. Most alarming is that many of us spend about 40% of a lesson sharing information that our students already know! Four essential points really stood out for me in our forum discussions these last 7 weeks or so related to making learning visible to all:

1. The merit of educators possessing and demonstrating excellent listening skills ~ when asking questions, within discussions, etc. Learning how to ask and model effective questioning is essential to facilitate discussion and generate new ideas, engage students in thinking more deeply about a concept or idea.

2.  The role of educators as evaluators: of our own efforts and the success of our students. We absolutely need to do our own research in order to be able to know how students are perceiving our teaching and support their successful learning (Brookfield, 2006). Using classroom assessment techniques (CAT’s) such as a “Muddiest Point” (having students reflect and identify on something that they are finding confusing) or the Critical Incident Questionnaire (see my previous blog posting and instructional video on how to implement this weekly) gather important information that can help us “flex” and adjust our teaching style to truly meet the needs of our students (Brookfield, 2006).

3.  The critical importance of student engagement and building that relationship of trust, safety and respect in the learning environment (Barkley, 2010). Possessing a higher level of emotional intelligence is an excellent trait for educators to have. Students appreciate and feel more connected and trusting with educators that are empathetic and caring. Yet, its interesting that educators seem to developing their skills and knowledge in a silo, rather than collaborating and building a broader teachers’ learning environment with their peers that could then support each teacher in their work. In an interesting interview with TESConnect, Hattie (2014) shared: “Too many teachers believe the essence of their profession is autonomy. We hardly ever get together and look at each other’s teaching. That is a major hindrance to working collectively” (Evans, 2014, p. 1). Isn’t that alarming that many teachers don’t talk about teaching with other teachers, don’t work collaboratively and collectively together. In PIDP #3260: Professional Practice, a number of strategies are proposed to help promote one’s own development, and peer-assessment is an excellent one that was explored and discussed. I know from my own personal experiences in teaching at universities and colleges that peer-assessment and collegial observation rarely happens, voluntarily or not. What do you think of the idea of having a peer observe you and provide formative feedback on your efforts in the classroom? How else will we know if we are supporting “visible learning”? Brookfield (2006) suggests that teachers may have a fear of being identified as “imposters”. In other words, they may feel that they will somehow be discovered as ill-equipped and inadequate in their role, even with all their expertise and knowledge. Certainly, I think in any peer-assessment/observation arrangement, specific ground rules need to be set, and feedback given in a non-judgemental and supportive fashion. I am definitely open to this idea. Why wouldn’t we want someone to tell us our strengths and identify “areas of focus”.

4.  Educators need to teach and incorporate a variety of activities that encourage students’ metacognitive skills, such as self-regulation, self-assessment, and self-monitoring. We know that when teachers become learners of their own teaching, students learning is much more successful. Students become their own teachers! John Hattie, the guru of “Visible Learning”, analyzed and ranked 138  influences ( student, home, curricula, teaching and learning strategies) related to student learning outcomes, using over 50,000 studies involving more than 250 million students around the world. These influences are ranked and identified with an effect size. Note that “self-reported grades” rank the highest!

You can view the list at: http://visible-learning.org/hattie-ranking-influences-effect-sizes-learning-achievement/

Here’s an excellent video from TEDx Talks where John Hattie explains it all!

 

Hattie found that the #1 most effective method for improving achievement was by giving students 100% visibility into what they are learning and why (Hattie, 2013). I’m 100% committed to Visible Learning. How about you???

References:

Barkley, E.F. (2010). Student engagement techniques: A handbook for college faculty. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Boss.

Brookfield, S.D. (2006). The Skillful teacher: On technique, trust, and responsiveness in the classroom (2nd Ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Boss.

Evans, D. (2014, October 18). He’s not the Messiah..TES Connect. Retrieved from: https://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6290240

Hattie, J. (2013, November 22). Why are so many of our teachers and schools so successful? TEDxTalks. Retrieved from:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rzwJXUieD0U

Mauger, D. (2015). PIDP: 3150 Instructional Strategies. Provincial Instructors Diploma program.

Sharing in the Knowing

None of us know everything; each of us know something; and we can put the pieces together if we pool our resources and combine our skill (Levy, 1996 as cited by Jenkins, 2006)

connectivism

Objective: On February 16, AM posted a comment that really caught my attention in the Digital Gogies forum. In a discussion about cybergogy, AM shared a quote by Peter Levy, a cybertheorist who stated, “none of us know everything; each of us know something; and we can put the pieces together if we pool our resources and combine our skills”(as cited by Jenkins, 2006).

Cybergogy, coined by PhD scholar Minjuan Wang, refers to “activities in any course with adult learners using instructional technologies on and off line” (Monroe & Malone, 1999, p. 1). As G indicated, it is specific to online instruction, and about engaging learners by involving them behaviorally, emotionally and intellectually.

Central to this “gogy” is the concept that strategies used in traditional classroom settings may not be the same as in a virtual setting (Clarey, 2010). AM’s response furthered our discussion on my posting of some of the common challenges with cybergogy identified by Monroe and Malone, especially “control of knowledge acquisition and transfer of learning” (1999, p. 1). To further deeper this idea of pooled resources and shared learning, the forum also explored the idea of peeragogy, also referred to as paragogy. This “gogy” is “a theory of peer-to-peer learning and teaching that addresses the challenge of peers producing a useful and supportive context for self-directed learning” (EdTechReview, 2013, p.1).

Reflective: My immediate reaction to this quote was that it so clearly speaks the truth about knowledge acquisition and the learning journey that we all are a part of every day of our lives. Levy’s words are certainly logical and meaningful to me. Yet, I also realize that this new culture of learning and way of creating of new knowledge is not necessarily a central belief among educators or within educational systems for adult learners today. Nor was this idea of completely informal and self-directed shared learning one I fully accepted when I first read about it.

Regardless of the type of learning environment, I personally believe that, without a doubt, we can all learn from each other. I also uphold that when we share and pool our resources and skills, we can learn so much more! What I ponder is if any group of individuals can all teach each other and master formal program information without the educator’s guidance or expertise?

plugged in

As new ways of learning and sense-making continue to be created and used by adult learners, we are now seeing self-directed learners teaching each other and building new knowledge and ways of knowing without an educator. As I further considered this quote, it made me step back and re-examine my role as an educator in today’s world. What is my role now and what will my future role be? While I don’t know what that answer might be, I see that we are on the cusp of a major paradigm shift in how we teach, share information, and work with adult learners. Perhaps the role of educator will transform into being that of a course designer for self-directed learning consortiums, or as a consultants that peer learners engage with when they self-identify the need to discuss ideas with a subject matter expert? How do I really feel about students teaching students in the pure sense of peeragogy, and is there a role for an educator to play in such new ways of knowing and learning? Cybergogy and peeragogy are certainly interesting cultures of learning that I am grappling with. I absolutely value them, but wonder about their role in the formal sense of post-secondary education.

Interpretive: Jenkins, in “Collective Intelligence and Convergence Culture” highlights the media convergence, participatory culture, and collective intelligence (Jenkins, 2006). He highlights this cultural shift of consumers becoming “participants” who are encouraged to seek new information and make connections. It is important to recognize that educational institutions have been built around the concept of serving as the distributor of knowledge and skills. They uphold research and evidence-based practice and learning. Educational institutions charge student registration fees in exchange for the exchange of (hopefully) new learning about students. Yet, this new way of learning could potentially be free, and not based on research. Hence, a true dichotomy is emerging. Do we see ourselves solely as the keepers of information that dole out this valuable resource to students, our paying consumers?

Learners today are actually participating in non-traditional knowledge cultures completely external to any formal education setting. As media technology has advanced, many new opportunities have arisen to propel this style of collective learning and knowledge sharing throughout cultures, countries, and across the globe. Jenkins points out that “ many schools remain openly hostile to these kinds of experiences, and continuing to promote autonomous problem solvers and self-contained learners” (Jenkins, 1996, p. 2).

Yet, there are emerging leaders among us who are changing the way we think about formalized education. One example is Dr. George Siemens whose theory of connectivism also strongly upholds the concept that each of us, as learners are contributing to a growing shared knowledge through social connections (Siemens, 2010). Connectivism is a learning theory for the digital age that helps us to understand both our passion for being connected, but most importantly how technology has transformed our way of knowing and learning. After reading his theory and listening to a number of UTube video lectures, I absolutely understand that learning and knowledge acquisition is no longer seen as solely an individual, internal process. With the use of new tools such as Facebook, Twitter, online learning platforms, blogs, open source resources, and more, knowledge is no longer acquired in a linear fashion. I propose that the theory of constructivism is transforming through the introduction of many new technologies into a hybrid-shared experience that I would term “multi-constructivism”. Levy’s quote rings very true in the digital world. Information is being shared, added to, and improved upon with every social exchange. In this way, we are sharing resources, expanding our knowledge and collectively creating new knowledge, concepts, and ideas.

Decisional: This philosophical discussion of this quote by Levy (1996, as cited in Jenkins, 2006) has been helpful to me in more thoroughly understanding and becoming comfortable with the concepts of peeragogy, cybergogy, and connectivism. Together, I believe each offer us all exciting new ways of understanding how we learn, and importantly offer us truly shared social learning experiences that are serving to collectively expand our knowledge.

How can I apply these ideas to my current role as an educator in a formalized educational program for dental hygienists? I plan to incorporate blogging in any future courses with student learners. I also plan to encourage our graduating class of students to form social learning forums to both support each other and expand their way of knowing and sense-making. I feel this will be especially important and supportive in their first year of practice. I also plan to write an article in the BCDHA newsletter on this topic to encourage fellow dental hygienists to form peeragogy-type virtual learning clubs on areas of practice that are important to them. Finally, I am keen to have a conversation with my fellow colleagues and explore new ways of building upon current practices to engage students in a more virtual way.

In closing, I feel that Levy’s words are true and meaningful in any learning environment. Hence, for any courses that I am involved in, I will continue to encourage and support collaborative-shared learning within a respectful and safe learning environment in which students see themselves and I as partners in contributing to everyone’s collective knowledge (Barkley, 2010).

References

Barkley, E.F. (2010). Student engagement techniques: A handbook for college faculty. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Clarey, J. (2010, April 9). A learning paradigm shift: Cybergogy. Retrieved from: http://janetclarey.com/2010/04/09/a-learning-paradigm-shift-cybergogy/

EdTechReview. (2013, April 6) What is peeragogy? Retrieved from:http://edtechreview.in/dictionary/261-what-is-peeragogy

Jenkins, Henry. (2006). Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York: New York University Press, pp. 2-4, 17-18, 258-260. Retrieved fromhttp://newlearningonline.com/literacies/chapter-1/jenkins-on-collective-intelligence-and-convergence-culture

Monroe, D, Malone, V.M. (1999). Cybergogy teaching: The implications for work with adult learners. Retrieved from:http://tcc.kcc.hawaii.edu/previous/TCC%201999/papers/monroe.html

Siemens, G. (2010, June 15). Connectivism: Socializing open learning. Retrieved from:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rqL_lsogeNU

The Puzzle of Motivation

As teachers, we certainly want the best for our students. We want them to be actively engaged in class, think critically about the information being presented, and demonstrate their understanding of what they’ve learned. We’re excited about teaching, but sometimes can’t quite spark that interest in learning by a student. Barkley, in her text: Student Engagement Techniques (2010) suggests a number of strategies to promote synergy between motivation and active learning, including creating engaging classroom environments in which both “the teacher and the students perceive themselves as members of a learning community” (p. 25).  Yet, without motivation, a student may not be receptive, no matter the effort expended by the teacher. Motivation is a theoretical construct that explains why we engage in a specific behaviour. It implies a level of interest that makes us want to do something, and for a student this means investing attention and effort into learning (Barkley, 2010).

Have you ever wondered how to teach motivation? It is in fact an acquired competence, developed over time through our experiences with other learning situations. Behaviorists believe that teachers can develop motivation in students by reinforcing desired learning behaviours. Cognitive theorists contend that motivation is a response to needs (with lower level needs such as food and shelter needing to be met before higher level needs can be considered), while goal theorists uphold that supportive relationships encourage students to adopt learning goals instead of performance goals.

After a fair bit of reading, I really am beginning to ponder if we’re going about instilling motivation the wrong way in a classroom setting. Dan Pink presents a very interesting UTube video entitled “The Puzzle of Motivation”.  In it, he shares a number of examples of how autonomy in the work place has led to motivated employees who are contributing significantly to corporate growth, and having fun doing it.

In the video, he shared 2 examples that I think could be applied to the classroom setting:

1. The 20% time concept supported by Google Executives for their employees. Google engineers were allowed to spend up to 20% of their time working on anything they want. This strategy has led to such amazing ideas and production. Does having choice motivate an individual? It would appear so as this team has generated significant ideas and inventive strategies

2. The “no schedule” individuals:  It has been found individuals without scheduled workdays are far more productive. They get their work done, and more, all within the realm of being completely free to choose where, how, and why they get it done. Using this approach, companies consistently report an increase in productivity and satisfaction.

Check out this video by David Pink, a lawyer who discusses motivation, reward strategies that just don’t work, and more! Perhaps we need to try one of these proven approaches when working with adult learners?

Supporting Introverts – To Question or NOT?

Question-markI absolutely support the idea that questioning can inspire gifted learners, but what about students who are more introverted? Viewing Susan Cain’s TedX Talk on “The Power of Introverts” made me reconsider the merit of questioning as a regular and essential strategy to promote learning. As of now, I don’t yet have it all sorted out with best techniques to effectively use questioning to engage introverted students. Perhaps the use of questioning is much less effective in helping introverts process and critically think through content and arrive at new knowledge

Strategies I plan to use include: getting to know my students early on and identifying whether a student is shy or has a tendency toward introversion. In doing so, the instructor can then tailor their approach to questioning for the introvert (e.g. sharing a question in advance of the session, giving pause, etc.).

But what I am now pondering is: Is it reasonable to expect that all students thrive on questioning? I’m beginning to see that it is a strategy that works well for extroverts who thrive on external stimuli; less so for introverts. Hence, our need to incorporate and thoughtfully plan to incorporate a myriad of learning activities and strategies to support student learning.

I located an interesting blog posting that summarized a forum “chat” on working with introverted students by Marisa Constatinides (2012), One strategy is to catch the student before they come in to class and discuss the topic and perhaps have them think through a few of the questions you might ask. Introverts need quiet time to re-energize and do their thinking. Although class time isn’t quiet time, at least it gives them some advance time (in their comfortable way) to ponder questions and formulate answers.

Until I learn more on this,…

Reference:

Constatinides, M. (2012, June 28). Strategies for reaching out to introverted students in the language class. ELT Chat. Retrieved from http://eltchat.org/wordpress/summary/strategies-for-reaching-out-to-introverted-students-in-the-language-classroom-eltchat-summary-28062012/

Thinking through the Power of Introverts in the Learning Environment

Have you ever considered the power of introverts? In the current context of classroom education where we uphold group discussion, group work, group think, and active engagement and participation; it seems we may have forgotten another important way of knowing. The power of alone time; time for deep thoughts, and the merit of also dedicating time to independent student learning and thinking. This TedTalk video, presented by Susan Cain, gave me pause and re-affirmed to me that teaching techniques must vary, and be individualized to each student. I’ve included the UTube video and my reflection below:

The Power of Introverts

Objective: Susan Cain, a lawyer and self-described introvert, provides much food for thought about the importance and value of introverts in our extraverted world in her 2012 Ted Talk entitled: The Power of Introverts. According to Cain, introverts “bring extraordinary talents to the world” and make excellent leaders. Yet, we live in a society where “group think” is promoted, open workspaces abound, and extraversion and charisma are celebrated, prized, and highly valued. We think of the introvert often as a “geek”, a loner, and less successful in our world today.
According to the Urban Dictionary, an introvert is defined as “an individual who focuses on their inner world of thoughts and ideas; one who gains energy from alone time; one who thinks before they speak” (p. 1, 2005). As the definition suggests, introverts are more concerned with the inner world of the mind and like thinking, reading, and spending time alone (Cain 2012). As I explored this topic further, I learned that they often do not make small talk although may speak at length on topics of their choice, and prefer to maintain just a few close relationships (Zakiyatunnisa, 2014). An extravert is in direct contrast to this description: “a person concerned more with external reality than inner feelings” (Dictionary.com, n.d., p. 1). Extraverts are known to be energized by external sources such as people, activities, and objects; and are typically the predominant contributors to class discussions (Isaacs, 2009). They thrive on socializing and being around people! Introverts, on the other hand, become drained by these experiences and need to recharge on their own.
According to research conducted by the Myers-Briggs organization (1998), about fifty percent of American population are introverts (Myers & Quenk, 1998). Although these two personality types describe two clearly distinct types, we know that every individual is unique and hence, and hence there is a wide range of individual expressions of introversion or extraversion personality preferences among people of all ages. Cain herself discloses that at times she has acted like an introvert, and other times, as an extrovert (2012).
In this TedTalk, Cain shares compelling evidence that introverted leaders deliver better outcomes than extraverts, and are less likely to micro-manage individuals than extraverts (2012). Introverted students are more likely to get better grades, are more knowledgeable, yet are often seen as outliers in the school setting as they prefer to work alone and are more reserved in class discussions. Cain’s call to action for us is to let introverts be themselves (2012). She suggests we need to encourage much more autonomy and privacy in learning environments in order for individuals to engage in deep thought and new ideas. Cain also challenges us to unplug ourselves and “get inside our own heads more often” and for introverts to occasionally let the world see what they are about by sharing their inner thoughts (Cain, 2012).

Reflective: I found Cain’s TedTalk very compelling, and it made me realize that this was the first time I’ve really ever given any thought as to the value of assessing students’ personality traits of introversion or extraversion very early on in the classroom setting. I have of course noticed that some students are quieter and less likely to participate in class discussions, but I hadn’t actually “labelled” them in any way, or deliberately thought that I needed to treat them differently in the learning environment. Listening and watching this video was a huge wake-up call for me!

Interpretive: In my work as a part-time educator, I have not had the luxury of consistently interacting with the same students on a daily basis. My teaching times at both the University of British Columbia and Vancouver Community College are sporadic and the learning environment ever changing with my focus on community health and clinical learning. As such, I feel that I have never really had the exposure of intimately knowing each student’s preferred interaction in the classroom setting. If I had, I believe I would have had this “ahha” moment much sooner, risen to the challenge, and developed a repertoire of strategies to more actively engage introverted students. Most importantly, I would have then been able to then create the type of learning environment that they are comfortable in and able to thrive.
According to research, introverts and extroverts process information differently, and actually draw upon different parts of the brain using different neurotransmitters (Isaac, 2009). An extravert is believed to draw upon short-term memory to assemble his thoughts whereas an introvert uses long-term memory to make more complex associations. These two types of students perform very differently in the learning environment, with the introvert often much more reserved and quiet. Unfortunately, introverts are often mistakably labelled as unmotivated and unengaged students (Zakiyatunnisa, 2014). Truthfully, it’s all about one’s perspective. As an educator, I need to ask critically self-assess my observations of students and ask myself: do I identify the quiet student incorrectly as passive and unresponsive, or as a interested introvert who simply requires time to process information and prepare a response in any group learning environment? How can I support introverts and create the kind of learning environment for this type of learner to thrive? As I pondered this thought and searched for answers, I came across a number of articles that propose helpful strategies to more actively engage the introvert. These include:
1. Assigning material well in advance so that they have time to process the information and formulate questions and thoughts for a class discussion,
2. Follow a question with a pause to give introverts time to prepare a response,
3. Engage in occasional eye contact with the introvert to check on their body language and facial expressions to assess their level of engagement,
4. Build in student time breaks (pauses) at crucial times during a discussion to allow for self-reflection and then select more introverted students to respond before randomly accepting others’ responses,
5. Notice who is dominating the class discussion, and identify strategies to ensure others’ voices are also heard,
6. Notify the introverted student in advance that you will ask for their comment on a specific topic so they have time to prepare, and very importantly
7. Invite the introvert to meet with you on an individual one-on-one basis to get to know their personalities and interests (Isaacs, 2009; Zakiyatunnisa, 2014).
The above-mentioned strategies add an additional important layer onto the valuable strategies shared in Barkley’s book entitled “Student engagement techniques: A handbook for college faculty” (2012). Promoting a learning environment of respect and trust, sharing the power in the classroom, and creating a community of learning will also support all learners, regardless of their personality type.

Decisional: How can I as a teacher apply what I’ve learned about introverts into the learning environment? When I begin teaching a course on my own, I feel that it will be immensely important to take the time to get to know each student’s personality type early on. Beginning immediately, I feel that I will be much more aware and understanding of a students’ level of participation in any discussion I am involved in. I also feel much more prepared to more actively engage introverts in the learning environment using some of the strategies identified above. In order to truly be students’ guide at the side and facilitator of learning, I am committed to incorporate a variety of instructional strategies and activities into any session I teach. Most importantly, I plan to strike a balance between activities that require group participation and those that encourage individual student work that promotes deep thought. I want to empower introverts and extroverts alike to actively participate and be comfortable in their learning environment and experience acceptance and success as they make sense of new information and generate new ideas and knowledge.

References

Barkley, E.F. (2010). Student engagement techniques: A handbook for college faculty. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Extravert. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged. Retrieved February 14, 2015, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/extravert
Introvert. (2005). Urban dictionary. Retrieved from:
http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Introvert
Isaacs, T. (2009). Introverted Students in the Classroom: How to Bring Out Their Best. Retrieved from: http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-and-learning/introverted-students-in-the-classroom-how-to-bring-out-their-best/
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