Despite the prevalence of introversion around the world, it is still perhaps one of the most frequently misunderstood personality traits. In highly extraverted world being an introverted person can be challenging and a common stereotypical view is that introverts lack social skills. Nowadays many school tasks include lot of teamwork, collective learning and discussion-based activities and the new Finnish National Core Curriculum also highlights students’ participation in class and conversations, different study environments, new teaching and studying strategies, self-regulation, project-based learning, collaborative learning and group work.
My study uses the term social engagement to refer the extent to which student interact with their peers in school learning activities. It is students’ willingness to collaborate and work with other students in learning that includes attending and responding to peer comments as well as supporting other students’ ideas. The scale is not widely used yet but my study revealed that it is valid measure that can be used in the Finnish school context. The results in my study indicated that social engagement scale had two dimensions: Social engagement approach that indicates willingness for collaborative learning and helping peers and social engagement avoidance that indicates unwillingness to work with peers and sharing ideas.
The second aim of my study was to examine the interaction effect of social engagement and introversion on self-esteem, schoolwork engagement and burnout. Because introverted people often choose to be by themselves I wanted to examine that how social engagement and introversion interact. In other words, what if introverts have high social engagement in learning, and how do these affect their well-being and engagement. Results indicated, first, introverts in general tend to have low social engagement and less well-being (i.e., low self-esteem and high burnout). However, our results further showed that introverts can have high social engagement and when introverts have high social engagement they have higher self-esteem than those introverts who have low social engagement. This may indicate that for all the students, no matter what their personality trait is, it is important to collaborate with other students and get opportunities to share ideas with them and receive help from them when needed.
More importantly, the interaction effect found in my study indicated that introverts are not inevitably unsocial and lot of them are socially engaged. This finding reminds us introverted people are possible to communicate well with others and be interested about other people. These findings also have important implications for teachers and educators. Firstly, it reminds teachers to take their students’ personalities into consideration and talk about them with students so different personalities could be understood and accepted better in school. Secondly, if introverted students are lacking social skills, those should be taught, so they could have skills to work with each other. Introverted students should also be encouraged to engage more in peer learning. Increasing social engagement do not mean that introverted student should be louder and expose themselves more. Introverts do not say much but when they share one deeply reflective comment it should be valued as much as the comments of students who share their ideas more often. Teachers should find a way to offer introverted students’ opportunities to share their ideas in smaller and well-known groups or virtually.
Sanna Tuovinen: Introverted but socially engaged in school learning: The interaction between introversion and social engagement and its role in well-being