By: Rezda Rezal, B.A. Honours Law (concentration in Business Law and minor in Business), Faculty of Public Affairs
The onset of the unexpected COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an unprecedented shift for Canadian universities to move their courses online. Throughout the year, it has been observed that this virtual learning environment has impacted students’ educational performance both positively and negatively (Wyse, 2020). This may potentially be attributed to the compatibility of students’ learning styles with the characteristics of online learning. Since learners perceive and process information differently depending on their personalities, it is beneficial to analyze these traits to understand the relationship between academic performance and online learning (Al-Dujaily et al, 2013, p 22). The acquired knowledge can potentially be used to develop innovative teaching methods to facilitate academic excellence.
Although many factors can be considered, this article will focus on Carl Jung’s extraversion personality trait that is observed in relation to class participation. This trait is chosen because it is often referred to as the dominant factor for learning activities in many studies (Bayne, 2004). It also significantly influences students’ willingness to participate in class (Borup et al, 2013). Participation is the learning component of choice because studies have shown that students who frequently participate in class discussions – regardless of their learning styles – have better retention and comprehension of the course materials which results in better learning outcome than their non-participating peers (Beckerson et al, 2020). The argument presented is that through the creation of more participation opportunities can learning be more effective in a virtual setting and in general, post-COVID. Two opportunities that TAs can provide include creating study sessions in place of office hours and monitoring online chats during synchronous sessions or online forums for asynchronous class structures.
LEARNING STYLES AND ONLINE LEARNING
Introverts are “introspective reflective observers” (Picianno, 2019, p 13). This means they prefer to listen and have time and space to think deeply about the learning materials (Jordan, 2019). It is only after they have reflected on their thoughts will they contribute to the discussion and that is if they feel that their ideas can provide additional insight into the conversation (Borup et al, 2013). Furthermore, they like to organize and prepare what they are going to say before commenting (Borup et al, 2013, p 51). This means that their participation rate is likely to be slower and less frequent than their extroverted peers (Offir et al, 2007, p 15). Therefore, they find talk-intensive, quick-on-the-spot, and unpredictable methods of participation intimidating and may shut down and avoid contributing to the conversation, entirely (Jordan, 2019). This extends to participation in the form of group work because introverts can find connecting with large groups of people exhausting (Monahan, 2013). Hence, introverts prefer a passive learning environment that involves less interaction and collaboration and more time to reflect and carefully draft their ideas before sharing with the class.
Extraverts are “outgoing social organizers” (Picianno, 2007, p 13). They prefer interactive and highly collaborative forms of participation where they can express their opinions and converse with their professors and classmates (Offir, 2007, p 16). Their preference for social stimulation might make it difficult for them to spend considerable time and energy in front of a computer screen that lacks human interaction and may get bored and lose attention which will decrease their participation rate (Brackin, 2000, p 3; Offir et al, 2007, p 15). This is more pertinent in asynchronous classes where conversations are replaced with one-time posts on discussion forums as part of participation. For example, one study found that although extroverts like posting their comments, they mostly see it as a task to get “over with” (Borup et al, 2013, p 57). Furthermore, they did not read their peers’ comments because they found no value in doing so (Borup et al, 2013, p 58). However, they claimed that they would have paid more attention to others’ comments and the discussion topic if it was a back and forth conversation (Borup et al, 2013, p 54). Moreover, although extraverts tend to do better in synchronous sessions, technical restraints can also act as a barrier for extraverts’ participation. One interviewee noted, “You cannot say things spontaneously— you have to wait until the camera is pointed at you… Because one cannot speak freely—my involvement as a student decreases and so does my motivation” (Offir et al, 2007, p 15). This is theorized to be caused by extroverts’ tendency to act quickly which is supported by their high participation rate in in-person classes where fast-paced verbal participation is possible (Offir et al, 2007).
Adaptation to Online Learning
Perhaps the difference in individuals’ personality traits where one is more compatible with online learning is the reason why there has been an increase in participation rate amongst introverted students in online classrooms (Borup et al, 2013). The physical separation from the class might have mitigated the sense of energy deprivation for introverts which allows them to concentrate and brainstorm ideas to share (Offir et al, 2007). They might have also been more motivated to participate in conversations because the distance eliminates the discomfort they typically experience in social situations (Brackin, 2000). Nevertheless, introverts are not immune to the disadvantages of online learning. However, unlike extraverts who found the passive learning environment itself to be a barrier, introverts voice the fear of missing course content if they focus on participating, an activity that requires a great deal of effort and time for introverts. This implies that that a hybrid of synchronous and asynchronous class structure is best to accommodate both introverts and extraverts. However, this is out of the hands of teaching assistants to decide. Yet, two opportunities that TAs can provide to encourage more participation for both introverts and extraverts are replacing office hours with study or recap sessions and monitoring online chats during synchronous sessions and online discussion forums for asynchronous classes
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR TEACHING ASSISTANTS
Recommendation #1: Study Sessions
Replacing office hours with study sessions can prevent wasted unused hours and motivate introverts to attend the sessions and get a recap of the course materials without the pressure of preparing many questions in order to avoid awkward social situations. They also have the option to simply sit and observe discussions. This may increase their class participation because they no longer have to fear missing class content if they focus on contributing to discussions. Additionally, these sessions are significantly beneficial for extroverts who now have more chances to converse with TAs regarding course content and actively learn. It adds the social interaction component extraverts require to motivate them to participate. These sessions are especially advantageous for asynchronous classes. Study sessions can also be treated similarly to tutorials in classes that do not have them and can be counted for participation marks, although not necessary.
Recommendation #2: Creating Conversations
The second recommendation is monitoring students’ conversations. During synchronous sessions, professors who utilize both audio and the online chat feature are more likely to receive higher participation rate than those who uses one tool. Unfortunately, many professors are unable to monitor online chats because they are preoccupied with teaching, keeping track of their slides, and conversing with students via audio. Since tracking participation is part of a teaching assistant’s job description, they can help monitor these chat boxes (IPFW, n.a). This will allow timely replies to chats which will facilitate a more interactive learning environment. TAs can also verbally point out interesting ideas from the chats to aid in introverts’ participation and attract the attention of extroverts to the comments raised which will, consequently, enrich class discussions. Professors typically do not ask for the help of TAs in online live lectures, especially in upper years. However, the benefits outlined suggest that they might want to consider assigning such tasks to TAs to encourage more in-class participation. For fully asynchronous classes, teaching assistants can create discussion forums and be in charge of encouraging conversations and monitoring discussions. Introverts will more likely participate as the non-immediate format of asynchronous discussion forums provides additional time for introverts to think and reflect on the course materials discussed in class and prepare comments to share (Borup et al, 2013). Extraverts will more likely stay engaged and explore other posts if they receive frequent feedback from TAs and are incentivized to reply to others’ comments, understanding that their replies will be valued.
In sum, TAs effort to ensure a hybrid class structure is achieved regardless of whether the actual course is in a blended format can further enhance introverted students’ participation in online classes without sacrificing the participation of extroverts that is already difficult to maintain in an online environmen
Al-Dujaily et al. (2013). Am I Extravert or Introvert? Considering the Personality Effect Toward e-Learning System. Educational Technology & Society, 16 (3), 14–27.
Bayne, R. (2004). Psychological types at work: An MBTI perspective: Psychology@Work series. London, UK: International Thomson Business.
Beckerson, W., et al. (2020). Research and Teaching: An Introvert’s Perspective: Analyzing the Impact of Active Learning on Multiple Levels of Class Social Personalities in an Upper-Level Biology Course. Journal of College Science Teaching, 49(3). https://doi.org/10.2505/4/jcst20_049_03_47
Borup, J., West, R., & Graham, C. (2013). The influence of asynchronous video communication on learner social presence: a narrative analysis of four cases. Distance Education, 34(1), 48–63. https://doi.org/10.1080/01587919.2013.770427
Brackin, T. et al. (2000). College Students’ Use of Electronic Communication Technologies: Introverts versus Extraverts. ERIC, online: https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED441189
Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW). (n.a). Preparing Guidance for Online Teaching Assistants. Center for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching, online: https://www.pfw.edu/dotAsset/95590dbc-7703-489e-9933-503cf045ebe1.pdf
Jordan, E. (2019). Active Learning for Introverts. Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. US: Kennesaw State University, online: https://cetl.kennesaw.edu/article/active-learning-introverts
Monahan, N. (2013). Keeping Introverts in Mind in Your Active Learning Classroom. Faculty Focus: Higher ED Teaching Strategies From Magna Publications, online: https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-and-learning/keeping-introverts-in-mind-in-your-active-learning-classroom/
Offir, B., et al. (2007). Introverts, Extroverts, and Achievement in a Distance Learning Environment. The American Journal of Distance Education, 21(1), 3–19. https://doi.org/10.1080/08923640701298613
Picciano, A. (2019). BLENDING WITH PURPOSE: THE MULTIMODAL MODEL. Online Learning (Newburyport, Mass.), 13(1), 7–. https://doi.org/10.24059/olj.v13i1.1673
Wyse, A. E., Stickney, E. M., Butz, D., Beckler, A., & Close, C. N. (2020). The Potential Impact of COVID‐19 on Student Learning and How Schools Can Respond. Educational Measurement: Issues and Practice, 39(3), 60–64. https://doi.org/10.1111/emip.12357