“Isn’t normal the cycle on a washing machine?”
There is ever increasing attention being paid to the way so called “Introverts” prefer to work and play.
This is in part a response to the prevalence of material in cultural, corporate and school spaces that reify the notion of the team, the group, bonding relationships and interactions connected to the idea of the “Extrovert” population. There is a suggestion of moral worth attached to being in this normal group (extrovert) with implicit understandings of what ways constitute a failure to measure up to this standard of normal.
BCW doesn’t intend to use this space to look at the history and pop psychologizing of these terms, who they might serve, and what hoops it has us jumping through to get it right. The purpose of this article is to invite reflection on the discomfort and scrutiny attached to a student who identifies a preference for quiet, solitary endeavour. It also bears making news that all students need the flexibility of choice to move between the solitary and group endeavour.
This focus on groups, team players and being a good learning partner has currency in school learning environments. When a student states a preference for solitary working it often signals concerns for parents, teachers and families that this is an indicator of an inability to make friends, socialize successfully, fit-in, or belong to the bigger group.
As a way of side-stepping these less than useful polarizing tags BCW has developed a set of questions for teachers, and a visual tool to support students to select a preferred way of being in the learning community when engaging with their class work on any given day.
BCW acknowledges that many cultural groups are premised on collective interactions and yet other cultural groups work to have the notion of the successful and motivated individual given priority. This post is an invitation to see how we support students who wish to move between the notion of groups and working individually. Keeping in mind that all students need support to achieve the best possible outcomes for their school and social life. In a learning environment the individual can be supported by the wider school community and group members can still have an individual focus. The invitation is for teachers to work with their students on a continuum of involvement, not take the easy option of either or.
When you invite learners to position themselves in learning engagements consider what other choices might support their positioning.
- Is a learner’s preferred way of working as a solo inquirer valued and given space in the class environment?
- How might solo learners be supported?
- Is the learning environment a flexible one where learners can move between soloing and grouping?
How can we value different styles of learning and collaboration?
- Is each learner’s voice and choice valued in the formation of groups?
- Do learners have much say and agency how groups are formed?
- Have learners been skilled up in how to make discerning choices about the people they collaborate and work with?
- Is each learner’s choice and voice heard and valued about the ‘how’ of learning engagements?
This pictorial prompt is one way for learners to make visible to the teaching staff their choice of preferred learning positions for a given task or provocation.