Educating All Students

Introverts versus Extraverts


Latin Roots:

Extraverting = outward turning

Introverting = inward turning

To extravert is to:

  • Look outward for interests, values, and ideas
  • Think out loud
  • Reveal half through ideas
  • Process experiences outwardly
To introvert is to:
  • Look inward for interests, values, and ideas
  • Keep ideas inside
  • Polish thoughts before exposing them
  • Process experiences inwardly

*Extraversion and Introversion also refer to how the dominant type in a person's mental process (Sensing/Intuition/Thinking/Feeling) is used -- inwardly or outwardly.

Personality Structures & Motivation in the Classroom

Motivation: Extraversion v. Introversion [Natural Interest]


  • Continuously alerted to events outside themselves
  • Active trial and error approach
  • Turning outward to pick up cues, interests, expectations, and values

  • Continuously altered to events within themselves and others
  • Reflective approach to life
  • Look inward for resources and cues and purse fewer interests deeply

E/I Preferences & Learning


Cognitive style:

  • Learning by talking and physically engaging the environment
  • Letting attention flow outward toward objective events
  • Talking to help thoughts to form and become clear
  • Learning through interactions, verbal and non-verbal

Study style:

  • Acting first, reflecting after
  • Plunging into new material
  • Starting interactions needed to stimulate reflection and concentration
  • Having a strong, interesting, external extraverted reason for studying beyond learning for its own sake
  • Avoiding distractions that will cut into their concentration
  • Studying with a friend,
  • Studying to prepare to teach someone

Instruction that fits Es:

  • opportunities to 'think out loud"; for example, one-to-one with the teacher, classroom discussions, working with another student, action projects involving people
  • learning activities that have an effect outside the learner, such as visible results from a project
  • teachers who manage classroom dialogue so that extraverts have ways to clarify their ideas before they add them to class discussion
  • assignments that let them see what other people are doing and what they regard as important


Cognitive style:

  • Quiet reflection
  • Keeping one's thoughts inside until they are polished
  • Letting attention flow inward
  • Being engrossed in inner events ideas, impressions, concepts
  • Learning in private, individual ways

Study style:

  • Reflecting first, acting after (if necessary)
  • Looking for new data to fit into the internal dialogue that is always going on
  • Working privately perhaps checking one's work with someone who is trusted
  • Reading as the main way of studying
  • Listening to others talk about the topic being studied, and privately processing what they take in
  • Extraverting just when they choose to

Instruction that fits I's:

  • Work internally with their own thoughts: listening, observing, lab work, reading, writing
  • Processing their experiences at their own pace
  • Present the results of their work in forms that let them keep their privacy
  • Have ample time to polish their work before needing to present it
  • Have time to reflect before answering the teacher's questions
  • Tie their studies to their own personal interests, their internal agenda

Michigan State University College of Education

Teacher Education Graduate Students:

Sources & Further Reading

Cain, Susan. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. New York: Crown, 2012. Print.

Lawrence, Gordon. People Types & Tiger Stripes. Gainesville, FL: Center for Applications of Psychological Type, 1993. Print.

Pannapacker, William. "Screening Out the Introverts." The Chronicle of Higher Education. N.p., 15 Apr. 2012. Web. 13 Mar. 2013.

Susan Cain: The power of introverts