Differing personalities benefit classrooms

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Student personality types fall all across the board, creating differences in how each individual learns.  

Extroversion and introversion exist on a spectrum; people who have extroverted tendencies flourish in social situations while those on the introverted end of the spectrum may feel more comfortable spending time alone. These traits can dictate how students learn and behave in the classroom.       

In a college environment, there are multiple ways to learn. Professors teach using textbooks, lectures and online material in the classroom.

Robert Oxley, instructor of sociology, said Dixie State University provides a wide variety of ways for students to learn, especially through technologies like Canvas. He requires class participation as part of students’ grades. For an introverted student, the idea of being graded based on how much you engage in discussion can be daunting. To combat this, Oxley said he also posts discussion questions on Canvas, where students can also earn credit by sending written answers and replying to their classmates’ responses.

Oxley said he notices some students who are shy and hesitant to raise their hand in class often write outstanding answers to questions he posts on Canvas. He attributes this to those students being more comfortable at home in front of their computer, rather than in front of the whole class.

“They’re getting the material; they just don’t want to express themselves,” Oxley said. “They’re afraid of making a mistake or afraid of being laughed at, which we don’t allow in my classroom because we all mutually respect each other.”

Saya Yabe, a freshman nursing major from Hilo, Hawaii, considers herself an introvert. She said her personality type affects her learning because it makes it more difficult to communicate with her professors and classmates.

“If I don’t know the answer, I feel nervous asking my professor because I don’t want them to judge me or think I’m dumb,” Yabe said. “I’d rather just go home and do it by myself and work it out that way.”

There are a number of reasons why students may not want to speak in class. Some are internalizing the material so they can go home and study it at the end of the day, and some students are simply trying to be respectful and quiet in the classroom, Oxley said.

Yabe said she prefers classes that are discussion-based. Although she usually just sits back and listens, she said she feels more alert and grasps the content more when her professors engage the class. Yabe appreciates the varying personality types of her classmates because it makes it more interesting, and she can learn from her more outspoken peers.

Kelton Hunt, a freshman biomedical sciences major from Enterprise, said he is an extrovert. He enjoys class discussions as well because he can feed off his classmates’ responses and energy. Hunt also appreciates his peers’ differing points of view.

“Some people think way outside of the box and cause more interesting discussions,” Hunt said. “It broadens your horizons of learning.”

Varieties in personality types create a far richer learning environment, said Sandra Petersen, associate professor of education. In a diverse class, the students balance each other out, not just with different personality types, but also with different backgrounds and experiences.

“College students bring a lot to the table,” Petersen said. “They’ve lived a number of years. They have stories to tell and experiences, failures and successes, and that makes [the class] a richer place.”

She emboldens her students to step out of their comfort zones to learn in different ways. As a professor, she tries to help students unearth their potential and see what they’re good at, whether it’s public speaking or written assignments.

Yabe said she has tried to slowly get out of her comfort zone by talking to classmates and forming study groups.

“It worked out really well because I made a lot of new friends that way,” Yabe said.

Hunt said it is beneficial to speak up in class because you get your questions answered, and also feels it’s more of an authentic way of learning.

“Memorization kind of learning doesn’t really mean anything to me; it’s just stuff you remembered to get an A,” Hunt said.

Petersen said she encourages students to make themselves heard in class, but she also wants students to support and encourage one another.   

You aren’t born knowing everything, so it’s important to be patient with yourself in the learning process and remember you’re still a novice, she said.

“We have great students, and I think we have great professors, and we all support each other,” Petersen said. “That kind of environment fosters inclusion and learning and fosters an atmosphere where everyone tries to be the very best they can and help the person next to them be the very best they can be as well.”

Oxley and Petersen both said they implement small group work in their classes. The small groups allow students to become comfortable with one another and open up to each other when working as a team. Oxley said group work is a great learning experience that can prepare you for a future in the workforce. An employer may ask you to team up with coworkers from different departments and you’ll have to work with a combination of introverts and extroverts. When everyone is working towards a common goal, he said, is when you’ll really see both personality types flourish.