Monday, 6 April 2015

TBL challenges both introverts and extroverts

In this article, Nicki Monahan discusses the challenge of ensuring that active learning classrooms do not disadvantage introverts. The learning strategy, Team-Based Learning (TBL), could be charged with producing a course structure that gives priority to extroverts over introverts. However, I would argue that TBL actually ensures that the active learning environment is designed to ensure that this does not happen due to the nature of stable teams. Because students are placed in teams of 5-7 students that remain in place for the duration of the entire course, this produces the conditions in which students within each team are given time to get to know each other and develop a working relationship. Thus, the difficulty that introverts may have in participating in large groups (e.g. the entire class) is mitigated by enabling students to first discuss course material among their team-mates. In addition, the nature of the stable team enables introverts to become comfortable with their team-mates such that they will more likely participate in a small group discussion; TBL removes the need to engage with unknown peers every time a discussion occurs during class.

Some might argue that this still requires introverts to step outside of their comfort zone in order to complete course requirements. This is certainly true. But it also does the same to extroverts in that it requires all students to initially prepare for class activities on their own, outside of class. Thus, I believe that TBL places both extroverts and introverts equally outside of their comfort zone in different ways. And, indeed, isn't that what a good learning environment should do? Stretch students beyond their preferred modes of interacting with the world to prepare them for a world they will experience in ways they cannot begin to imagine.


Monahan N. 2013. Keeping Introverts in Mind in Your Active Learning Classroom. Faculty Focus (Oct).