Cain (2012) states that a third to a half of people are introverts. These introverts are subject to a deep and real bias in our society to the point that education is designed against them, catering towards extroverts. Cain urges that introverts are an important part of our society and that numerous, famous introverts are responsible for many important events throughout our history. She makes three calls for action at the end of her presentation. First, stop the madness for constant group work. Second, get inside your own head more often. Finally, open up to others.
I agree with the first call for action. Many times as a student, I felt that my instructor was forcing group work on the class because it was the right thing to do. Some courses I took were entirely group-work based when it wasn’t necessary. A fine balance of individual and group work should be part of any course. The second call for action is to encourage people to engage in reflection more often. Until recently, I did not value the skill of reflection. However, I have found that by doing so, I can understand why I learnt something and what its value is. Research by Baird, Fensham, Gunstone, and White (1991, pp. 180-181) shows that for educators and learners, reflection can give insight into their roles in the classroom, greater accountability and responsibility, and improved intellectual development. In regards to the last call for action, I don’t believe that introverts should always open up to others. Introverts function better in quiet, closed off environments. To say that they should break down their barriers and become more extroverted could stifle their creativity and cause psychological problems.
Perhaps I have strong feelings against the third call for action because I am an introvert. I am not good at opening up to others. I can manage it through text, which is why I enjoy taking online courses, but doing so face-to-face is a challenge. From an academic point of view, I have not had a good past experience opening up. The worst case was during my PhD studies where I had an unforgiving supervisor who stifled my creativity and belittled me. After two years of PhD studies, I withdrew from the program and focused on teaching instead. I am satisfied working at a teaching university, however, I don’t have much opportunity for collaboration with my peers since research is not a focus. Our department also doesn’t do very much in terms of course development. I shouldn’t use this as an excuse though for not opening up academically though.
Currently, I see my students during the week and spend my time alone in my office. I see my colleagues about twice a month for meetings. Something I can do to improve my lack of openness is to pursue additional responsibilities outside of my teaching. There is an opening for the chair’s position of my department which would have me socializing and meeting with a lot more people. However, this is putting myself in a leadership position which I am slightly uncomfortable with. According to Cain (2012), introverts make the best leaders because they tend to be more careful and minimize risks. So what can I do to improve myself? My department is computer business systems, which specializes in information systems (IS). According to Horowitz (1996, p. 75), “the most important thing the introverted IS leader can do is acknowledge his shortcomings and make a commitment to improve those skills”. This is easier said than done. Perhaps when I am feeling uneasy or don’t complete something successfully, I could take some time at the end of the day for reflection and note any shortcomings in a notebook. If I have my thoughts documented, it could be easier to commit to improving myself.
Baird, J. R. (1991). The importance of reflection in improving science teaching and learning. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 28, 163-182.
Horowitz, A. S. (1996). The leader within. Computerworld, 30(44), 74-75.
Cain, S. (2012, March 2). Susan Cain: The power of introverts [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts