My first concern about not only accepting that many of our students are introverts but addressing their needs is whether to treat this like another learning style, especially since those have been debunked recently. According to Cain and Petrilli (resources in the previous post), introverts can certainly work in collaboration with others, but might produce better work working alone. What do we want from our students, then, the ability to fit into team work because we think it will be useful in their careers, or better individual work? In some cases, it may depend on the discipline. In my writing courses, I think I want better individual work.
While I do always include a collaborative assignment, whether peer reviews or team blogs or group research papers, for example, I like to have the groups discuss their individual strengths and distribute tasks according to those strengths. That gives each student the opportunity to work in the group with a little less stress. Sometimes, if a needed group skill is missing from the group, they have to step up to the challenge. I find that this kind of analysis helps all group members understand that we all have different skills, and it helps the team work better, with everyone happier at the end.
How would you address the balance of introverts to extraverts in your courses?
Note: An article with a good description of the kinds of skills needed for collaborative work is Kris Bosworth’s “Developing Collaborative Skills in College Students,” New Directions for Teaching and Learning 59 (1994): 25-31. I have given excerpts of this article to the groups as they worked to divide tasks to help them think about their skills.