From Education Week by Sarah D. Sparks:
Educators often look for ways to bring quiet children out of their shells, but emerging research suggests schools can improve academic outcomes for introverted students by reducing the pressure to be outgoing and giving all students a little more time to reflect.

"Whoever designed the context of the modern classroom was certainly not thinking of the shy or quiet kids," said Robert J. Coplan, a psychology professor and shyness expert at Carleton University, in Ottawa, Canada. With often-crowded, high-stimulation rooms and a focus on oral performance for class participation, he said, "in many ways, the modern classroom is the quiet kid's worst nightmare."

Susan Cain, the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, published by Random House this year, argues that such children often stop learning when they feel emotionally threatened in a class environment in which being an extrovert is considered the norm.

"There is too often a tendency to see it as inferior or even pathological," Ms. Cain said, "so teachers feel they have to turn the introvert into an extrovert."

Quiet as Stupid?

Take a typical class review session, in which a teacher asks rapid-fire questions and calls on students in turn.

"So if a teacher asks a question and the person doesn't answer right away," Mr. Coplan said, "the most common thing is the teacher doesn't have time to sit and wait, but has to go on to someone else—and in the back of their head might think that child is not as intelligent or didn't do his homework."

That slowness to speak can dramatically affect a student's success in classrooms where vocal participation and group activities are critical.

A 2011 study found teachers from across K-12 rated hypothetical quiet children as having the lowest academic abilities and the least intelligence, compared with hypothetical children who were talkative or typical in behavior.

Interestingly, teachers who were identified as and who rated themselves as shy agreed that quiet students would do less well academically, but did not rate them as less intelligent.

As many as half of Americans are introverts, according to the Center for Applications of Psychological Type, located in Gainesville, Fla.

There's a distinction between shyness—generally associated with fear or anxiety around social contact—and introversion, which is related to a person's comfort with various levels of stimulation.

A shy student, once he or she overcomes the fear, may turn out to be an extrovert, invigorated by being the center of attention.

By contrast, an introverted child may be perfectly comfortable speaking in class or socializing with a few friends, but "recharges her batteries" by being alone and is most energized when working or learning in an environment with less stimulation, social or otherwise, according to Mr. Coplan and Ms. Cain.

Mr. Coplan and his colleagues found differences between shy and introverted students as early as age 4: In play observations, shy children tended to hover anxiously just outside a group of unfamiliar children, while introverted children played quite happily on their own and did not attempt to approach other children.

"It seems clear," the researchers concluded, "that 'solitude' is an insufficient criterion for characterizing children as 'socially withdrawn.' "

In the 2011 study of teachers, the educators were more likely to respond to an over talkative student with direct intervention or social-learning strategies, while, for a quiet child, they were more likely to simply watch and wait or report the child's behavior to the principal or parents.

"The kids who are bouncing around the room and punching people in the face need to be addressed right away. In a classroom of limited resources, that's where the resources go," Mr. Coplan said, adding that the quiet students often get ignored.

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