Does your child deserve a lower grade because he is an introvert?

Published: April 12, 2013
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Categorisation-less grading system and learning style in universities hamper the learning process of introverts. PHOTO: REUTERS

Our society consists of an extrovert-dominated culture and students usually realise this when they enter an education system. However, it is not until after their university life that they are able to grasp the true magnitude of this trend.

Teachers endorse a societal prejudice against introverts by valuing and praising students who are more expressive, communicative and vocal. The general perception amongst teachers is that introversion is something that needs to be overcome.

The attitude of students is no better; introverts are looked down upon and treated as if there is something wrong with them or that they are somehow inferior to others.

I see this as not only an ethical problem but also as a fundamental flaw in our education system. Research has shown significant differences in the learning styles and personalities of introverts and extroverts.

In The Introvert Advantage How to Thrive in an Extroverted WorldMarti Olsen Laney, makes the case that brain chemistry in introverts is markedly different than that of extroverts.

In short, processing pathways in introverts are longer and more complex than the pathways found in extroverts. Hence, it takes them longer to process information, which causes a problem in our schools.

Being a student myself, based on my observations and interactions with countless students, I am convinced that the grading system of universities is highly biased towards introverts.

The system simply doesn’t treat students of various personality types equally. Let me give you a couple of examples to prove my point. Class participation of students is graded and only students who answer the instructor’s questions in front of the whole class score well.

For an extrovert, this may seem like a piece of cake but for an introvert, the very thought of going up on the roster to explain something to their class-mates may be nerve wrecking.

Furthermore, students who see university as a socialising experience view working in groups with strangers as a thrilling opportunity to make new friends and provide for a chance to express and interrelate their ideas. On the other hand, for introverts, the only things that come out of such academic necessities are high levels of stress, anxiety and a few skipped meals.

Instead of helping the students grow such categorisation-less grading system and learning style in universities hamper the learning process of introverts, who according to research, generate energy and ideas from internal sources and are more productive when working alone.

There is a dire need for our educations system to appreciate diversity amongst students and to make use of the extensive research being done in this field.

Susan Cain in her bookQuiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking deals with this issue and brilliantly champions the often-overlooked talents and gifts of introverts. She presents various methods of evaluation of students of different personality types and goes on to shatter the commonly held belief that only extroverts make good leaders.

For instance, excellent leaders like Rosa Parks, Abraham Lincoln, and Bill Gates have been characterised as introverts.

Such work needs to be highlighted in our society as well to provide an energy boost to the students and to help them gain more social acceptability.

Parents and teachers need to be educated enough so that they don’t strangulate a child in measuring him/her up against the common societal parameters of normalcy. This is why I like Cain’s book; she dispels wrong perceptions about introverts. For example, she identifies the distinction between introversion and shyness,

‘Shyness is the fear of social disapproval or humiliation, while introversion is a preference for environments that are not over-stimulating. Shyness is inherently painful; introversion is not.’

I would suggest any parent or teacher reading this to take notes because we can’t continue to live in ignorance. We can’t continue to undermine the talents of introverts by treating them like social outcasts.

Our education system of universities needs to be revisited to formulate a grading criterion that is sensitive to different personality types of students. Not only this, but also a shift in attitudes is required on the part of parents, teachers and students.

This will help in providing an adequate and equal opportunity for the introverts to grow and develop as Cain rightly puts it, ‘everyone shines given the right lighting.’

I think it is time that we get over our superficial beliefs of celebrating extrovert personality traits, and give a little space to the introverts in a world that never seems to stop talking!

Read more by Shaheera here or follow her on Twitter @ShaheeraSyed 

Shaheera Syed

Shaheera Syed

The author has majored in Public Administration and Governance from National University of Science and Technology (NUST). She is currently working as a Research Adviser to the Foreign Affairs Committee of Pakistan. She tweets as @ShaheeraSyed (twitter.com/ShaheeraSyed)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.