The Project: Introversion — Extroversion

In a class on learning experiences, I’m seeking to teach other students about the introversion/extroversion spectrum — from their roots in brain chemistry, to their common manifestations in behavior, to a plan for how to utilize these personal traits to their advantage in their education. In our personality-driven culture where the extrovert is the ideal, knowing how to leverage your strengths is an important skill in reaching personal success.

What is the Learning Experience?

Who: (College) Students

What: What is introversion and extroversion, and how can you leverage these personality traits in the classroom?

When: During school/class orientation

Where: In the classroom setting

Why: Introversion/extroversion is a vastly misunderstood topic, yet it has such a large impact on the classroom dynamic, interpersonal relationships, and individual learning. If students had a better understanding of themselves and those around them, they would be able to better cultivate the soft skills required to reach personal success in the classroom and beyond

How: A series of engaging learning experiences teaching about the science and behaviors connected to introversion and extroversion, combined with strategies to take advantage of their personal traits in order to maximize learning and engagement

Defining Components

These are the core learning objectives thus far. While the ultimate takeaways are the skills that can affect your abilities as a student, I think it’s also important to debunk any stereotypes and understand what it actually means to be introverted or extroverted and where these differences stem from.

Facts: What Is It?

  • Neuroscience explaining the differences in brain chemistry
  • (Common) Behaviors associated with these differences

Skills: What Do I Do Now?

  • Strategies to maximize personal characteristics
  • Strategies to acquire other positive behaviors
  • Techniques to leverage other people’s temperaments
  • Navigating interpersonal scenarios (collaborative projects, group discussion, public speaking, etc.)


How is it currently Taught?

I’m finding that there are quite a few programs for businesses seeking to enhance work performance by being sensitive to personality types, and this gives me reason to believe that I should be able to gather enough information for this project. My goal is either to bring this information — currently meant for businesses — to the classroom setting.

The Quiet Leadership Institute, which has sprung out of Susan Cain’s book, runs programs on introverted leadership in the form of online classes, lectures, seminars, keynotes, etc., to help businesses take full advantage of the multiple personality types within their organization.

They also just released this new section on quiet parenting, which also uses a series of videos, activities, and stories to help parents understand and support their introverted kids. While I haven’t looked into the specifics of these programs yet — I’m trying to figure out how much I can learn without paying anything — they have a pretty straightforward outline of what the programs have to offer. They have also partnered with Huffington Post to create a series of articles as well.

NASA has opened a similar program called Quiet Project Management, also an offshoot from the Quiet Leadership Institute, which focuses on enhancing productivity within NASA to help introverts and extroverts work to their fullest potential, to better reach balance in the workplace. Mike Erwin, who runs this program, has done the same thing with the Dutch Military. I’m still looking to see if I can find more specifics on these programs.

I also found this indie game (set for release this spring) called the Average Every Day Adventures of Samantha Brown, which follows an introverted college student through her daily struggles, giving the player a deeper understanding of her thought processes.

And while Susan Cain has gained quite a cult following and a lot of things regarding introversion now reference back to her and her book, there are quite a few other books which also address the same topic.

There is a fair amount of research into the neuroscience of introversion and I’m still in the process of combing through all of it.

There are ways to encourage participation other than asking students to speak up in class, and silence is an incredibly important tool for promoting learning and teaching patience- Jessica Lahey

Following a controversial article on classroom participation, a series of articles arose from various authors around the reality of class discussions, quiet students, and what it means to give a participation grade.


What are the challenges of the traditional ways of teaching people about the different temperaments of introversion and extroversion? How do we reroute our thinking to approach the subject from a new perspective?

Alternatively, what are the challenges of the traditional ways of teaching people how to succeed in a classroom setting?

Move Beyond Stereotypes

The introversion+extroversion spectrum is most commonly referenced in psychology courses in conjunction with Carl Jung, but it’s not really addressed as a factor that effects learning. Perhaps a stereotype is that everyone learns the same way and they learn best under the same circumstances, regardless of temperament.

Isolate the Problem

  • Working collaboratively and effectively
  • Levels of stimulation for effectively life/work flow
  • Creativity in isolation
  • How to be quiet- meditation
  • Different leadership styles- fostering and catering to
  • Differences in introversion and social anxiety

Effectively Delimit Scope

  • Changing the stereotypes surrounding introversion
  • Changing social structures to support introversion

See Problem from Various Viewpoints

  • How do you get students to participate more in class?
  • How do you get a child to be more outgoing and make more friends in their classroom?
  • How do you increase engagement in group classroom activities?
  • How do you make students more comfortable in the classroom?

Recognize What You Have Ignored

What does it mean for a student to ‘participate’ in class? What are the defining factors that make up a participation grade? What does it mean to be a ‘good student’ in the classroom?

What are the signs of learning and engagement in students?

Utilize All your Senses

Is it in the way we verbally instruct people, or the way we organize ourselves physically in spaces to make people feel more at ease? Or perhaps it’s the sound level and the types of noises in the room? If the introversion/extroversion spectrum has to do with levels of stimulation necessary for concentration and motivation

Learning Exercise


How can I use visual learning and patterning to teach facets of my topic? I’m seeking to use visuals to explain some of the drier, more complicated science behind the introversion/extroversion spectrum, and to help these processes stick more clearly to create a strong foundation of understanding about this topic.

While most people think that loud babies become loud people, the reality is actually the opposite. There were longitudinal studies done with babies, and it turns out that you can identify introversion in a baby from as young as four months old, and it has to do with their brain chemistry and how they react to their environment. People on the introverted end of a scale have an overactive Amygdala, which means that it is more sensitive and more reactive to stimuli, while someone on the extroverted end of the scale has an amygdala that is less sensitive and less reactive to the same stimuli. The result is that highly reactive/sensitive babies cry a lot because they are overwhelmed by their environment, but they often grow up to become quieter people as they personally seek out less overwhelming environments. Low reactive babies don’t cry a lot as children, and as they grow up they tend to become more outgoing and higher risk takers as they need to seek out more stimuli in order to reach the same level of stimulation.

As to how this applies to a visual exercise, I want to do a patterning exercise for people to connect the over reactive/under reactive brains to the people in their environments. For example, if you have two babies reacting differently to the same overwhelming environment, what is their brain chemistry look like and how would it effect their behavior? What about a toddler in daycare? This would be tying brain chemistry, behavior, and environment together through a series of pictures and to help people analyze and understand some of the reasoning behind certain behaviors.

5 mentos in Perrier, Coke, Sprite, and Diet Coke

This can be more visual by using a metaphor of something similarly reactive. For example, putting Mentos in different kinds of soda will produce different heights of explosions. If the different sodas represent brains of different temperaments — Diet Coke representing a more introverted temperament and regular Coke representing a more extroverted temperament — and the Mentos represent the stimuli, it’s easy to see that different brains react very differently to the the same levels of stimuli.

This analogy may be furthered with the addition of a ‘target height’, or a sweet spot that represents the ideal level of stimulation needed to reach success in a classroom learning environment. This means that the extrovert would need need more outward stimuli — Mentos — to reach that sweet spot, while the introvert would need a lot fewer Mentos to reach that same level and not be overwhelmed. This provides some explanation behind the behaviors of different temperaments.

The challenge with this exercise currently is that it does, in a way, create/enhance stereotypes, and in the nature-vs-nurture argument, completely ignores the component of nurture. It would need to be supplemented with additional information.

Knowledge Gaps


What are the learning gaps in this topic, and how can I address them? By pointing out the problems with current methods of learning about the introversion/extroversion spectrum, I may better target my learning objectives.

What are they?

Inaccurate Prior Knowledge- Depending on how old they are, students may have already begun to form misconceptions about different qualities that they have. Because introversion is often grouped in with shyness and social anxiety, there may already be stereotypes surrounding the types of behavior associated with it. However I don’t think that this inaccurate prior knowledge should be deep enough to fit what Ambrose describes as misconceptions- “remarkably resistant to correction…models or theories that are deeply embedded in student’s thinking”- if they are reached young enough; so what is the sweet spot between being old enough to understand, but young enough to not have solidified misconceptions about the world already?

Insufficient Prior Knowledge- Seeing as this isn’t something that is strictly taught in schools, I’m assuming that people have insufficient prior knowledge as to how to take advantage of the positive aspects of different personality traits. They have definitely needed to work some system out at some point in time, but these may not have been conscious or deliberate methods. By being aware of your own thought processes as well as other people’s thought processes, we can potentially adopt new ways of thinking.

How can we address them?

“Provide heuristics to help students avoid inappropriate application of knowledge” (Ambrose) provide a ‘rule of thumb’ to help students determine whether or not knowledge is relevant. As a reminder that this is just one of the many facets that make up an individual’s personality, it’s always important to use these labels to help people become more comfortable with themselves rather than to use them to further define the boxes surrounding themselves.

“Provide multiple opportunities for students to use accurate knowledge” (Ambrose) reinforce accurate knowledge through repeated exposure to override misconceptions

A Variety of Perspectives


How can I use the perspectives from different readings to approach a variety of learning activities? This exercise was a challenge in consolidating and applying information from a variety of sources.

In-class examples
  • Blockbusting: debunking myths and stereotypes; introversion + extroversion in relationship to other aspects of a person’s temperament
  • Thinking Fast and Slow: strategies to maximize personal habits and characteristics, take advantage of individual temperaments, and to build new habits
  • Filling Gaps: the biases in the environment on behavior and temperament
  • Visual Thinking: biological processes- differences in dopamine, the amygdala, neural pathways, etc.
  • Memory: genetic and environmental reasons for stereotypical behaviors, identifying associated behaviors
  • Schemas: generating prior knowledge to build up scaffolding for better in-class participation
  • Motivation: class participation grade (extrinsic), better relationships with classmates and teachers (intrinsic), increased confidence



After reading an excerpt from Dirksen’s book, Design for How People Learn, I utilized the concepts to come up with a variety of different ways to motivate my audience to engage in my topic. Each scenario takes place in a classroom setting, and each addressing a slightly different component of my learning objectives. After speed dating these concepts with a few of my peers, I received multiple comments suggesting that these approaches would go well together to create a series of educational activities.

How do you keep students engaged in learning?

  1. Use the think- pair- share method (think about your answer, write it down, and share it with a partner before sharing it with the class) to demonstrate the importance of both independent thinking and collaborative efforts. Use past experiences as subject matter in order to generate content off of prior knowledge. Tell each other stories about personal successes and failures in different types of classroom environments to compare experiences and develop empathy.
  2. Use visuals to show behavior change over time and through different environments, and take advantage of cognitive dissonance to explain the connections between brain chemistry and behavior. Are loud, crying babies exhibiting signs of introversion or extroversion? Why? Since younger kids react more instinctually to different social groups and environments, use examples of kids in different contexts to reveal how genetics cause different behaviors depending on the context.
  3. Under the guise of mystery, uncover and decode environmental biases that cater toward one personality trait or the other in the classroom. Use visuals such as the size of the class, grouping of the desks, the format/medium of the instructions, timing, topic, etc. to explore how environments effect student behavior.
  4. After explaining correlations of brain chemistry to common behavior (ex. dopamine, amygdala, etc.) draw or brainstorm ways in which the environmental factors could change that behavior. In the battle of nature vs. nurture, what are ways that your surroundings can influence behavior in a positive way? What are ways to combat your more natural instincts?



Using the McCarthy’s 4MAT system, we laid out four different steps in the design process

  1. Creating meaning and relevance to the project
  2. Conceptualizing and understanding the details that make up the essence of something
  3. Operationalizing this knowledge to understand how it is useful in the world
  4. Adapting and editing this information to create new things

I organized my current activities within each of these quadrants in order to create a more comprehensive learning experience. This started to reveal more gaps in my learning activity as some quadrants were more filled than others with potential activity ideas.

Teaching Journey


What is it?

using visuals, metaphors, comparisons, and interactive games to demonstrate abstract/invisible concepts

In the brain- neuroscience and nervous systems: amygdala, dopamine, neural pathways

  • Activity: mini science experiments/interactive metaphors to explain differences in reactivity and find the optimal levels of stimulation

Expressed behaviors

  • Common linked behaviors
  • Thought processes causing behaviors
  • Caution vs. risk taking, seeking loud activities vs. quiet activities

Debunking stereotypes

  • Activity: What do you think the pros and cons are
  • Misconceptions
  • Anxiety/shyness vs. introversion
  • Not black and white, but as a spectrum


  • The role of environment in effecting behavior
  • Story/Visual timeline- following a child throughout their day across multiple environments
  • Activity: uncover and decode environmental biases that cater toward one personality or the other
  • Activity: add/subtract things to the environment

Cultural relevance

Using visuals, stories, and personal accounts to create feeling and empathy

Cross cultural comparisons

  • Different ideals

History in Western culture

  • A timeline of events chronicling the changing ideals
  • Effects of the extrovert ideal/expectations
  • Activity: (have you felt these) Stereotypes, implications, biases

In the classroom today

  • Expectations for participation and collaboration
  • Pros and cons of temperaments in the classroom
  • Activity: Think/Pair/Share personal accounts


  • Stories from successful ambiverts
  • Activity: Journal
  • Creating attainable goals
  • Scaffolding to attain those goals

This was my first round of iterating my learning process into the 4mat cycle. I initially organized it by individual activity types.

In the end my biggest challenge was figuring out how to debunk stereotypes in a sensitive manner, and that challenged the way I ordered my activities because it didn’t make sense to have much discussion or reflection before you truly knew what was going on.

In my second round of organizing my learning process, I organized it by overall learning objectives.

I looked into current popular learning apps and websites, as well as current methods of learning about introversion and extroversion. When looking into current visual learning about my topic, it seemed that they either veered toward the side of extremely scientific and cold, or extremely friendly and personal. I wanted to go for something in between — that could act as a reliable source of accurate information, as well as promote empathy.

I looked into very neutral colors in order to go with my theme of staying as neutral as possible on this topic — to avoid strong colors that promote any strong biases I’m trying to stay away from. It was important to me to maintain a fairly neutral voice so that I can let people come to their own conclusions and not feel like I’m trying to persuade them.

I played around with different visual ways of showing brain activity in a way to better increase empathy for those with different minds from you. I wanted to find a way to explain information in a way that debunks stereotypes and evokes some sort of stronger emotion. This could potentially be done with color, pattern, or graphics/interaction.

For a few of my interactions, I went a little more indepth into how information would actually be displayed through time.