Winter 2006 - Volume 9 Number 1
|Managing the College Classroom: Perspectives from an Introvert and an Extrovert
One of the biggest challenges facing college instructors in the 21st century is classroom misbehavior. The authors propose that how one handles classroom incivility is a matter of personality type. One of the authors is an extrovert; the other an introvert. The authors discuss personality theory, general classroom management, how to identify student problems, ascertain the cause of student problems and provide an appropriate solution depending upon one’s personality type. With the right goals, preparation and strategies all types of professors can effectively deal with disruptive students.
One of the challenges facing instructors in the 21st century is classroom behavior leading to disciplinary action. This issue can be a day to day problem for some professors. Bartlett (2004) reports that incivility in today’s academic culture is not the exception, but rather the norm.
Through informal hallway conversations we became interested in different methods of dealing with incivility. One of us is an extrovert; the other an introvert. We profess that no matter the personality type, a classroom instructor can manage incivility in the classroom.
One of the most common areas in which we see classroom disruption is due to technology. Technology has provided both faculty and students with tools to enhance the pedagogical environment, but it can also be a distracting, if not disrupting, force in the classroom. Some students use computers to peruse the internet on non-curriculum subjects, and to send instant messages. Others are distracted by PDAs, but Gilroy (2004) notes that cell phone usage is the most unsettling occurrence in the classroom. These distractions can result in faculty-student disconnection, and we believe that connecting with students is a primary component to classroom management.
Parker Palmer (1998) notes that no matter how much experience one has, techniques, though sometimes useful, are not the element that assists faculty with connecting to their students, rather, it is knowing and trusting oneself. Query students about their favorite instructors, and why they chose them, and a wide variety of answers will be produced. The common trait among students’ favorite professors is a strong sense of self. Palmer states that it is important “to understand my own nature as a teacher and to learn the techniques that might help it along” (p. 24). Sperber (2005) concurs with Palmer noting that one should teach according to one’s personality, not the trend of the day, mentors, or anyone else. He also notes that “students possess superb radar that quickly locates phoniness in professors” (p. B20).
We found no literature that matched personality type to classroom management strategies. We were curious if there exists a technique(s) that would be a success or failure based upon specific personality type
Many personality theorists focus upon Jungian (1921) trait personality theory because it is the theory with which faculty, regardless of discipline, have the most familiarity. Trait personality theory posits that our personality traits are inherent and while no one is a pure personality type, we tend to use one type more naturally and more frequently. According to the Myers-Briggs (1998) Typology Indicator, based upon Jungian trait theory, there are sixteen different personality types. These sixteen different personality types are based upon combinations of four dimensions:
Our difference is on the Introversion/Extroversion scale; the other dimensions are the same. We feel that this is theoretically significant because it is the dimension most likely to affect how professors verbally and nonverbally interact with students. This is certainly true in our case as we deal with classroom incivility with different strategies, yet both of us are successful with this sometimes unpleasant task.
We characterize introverts as relating well to quieter students, as they were probably in that category themselves, and as endeavoring to involve those students in classroom discussion. The introverted professor is more likely to assign writing tasks as this allows the introverted students a medium to express ideas and emotions in a non-spoken fashion. The introverted professor is a good listener and proficient at reading nonverbal signals. This professor is patient and allows students time to formulate thoughts and answers. Finally the introverted professor does not gravitate toward students who speak spontaneously or monopolize class discussion.
The extroverted professor tends to gravitate toward talkative students and may challenge them to go further with their thinking and to verbalize thoughts. This professor is also more likely to take chances and try new strategies in the classroom. Talking is encouraged, even if the topic veers and goes off on tangents. Usually this professor displays high energy and probably is annoyed by or ignores students who seldom or never speak in class.
Regardless of personality type, the following Top Ten Tips are suggested for preventing classroom discipline problems:
Despite faculty’s best efforts to create a positive pedagogical environment, discipline issues will still occasionally occur. Our recommendation is to have a three step response: 1) identify the problem, 2) ascertain a cause and 3) devise solutions.
Individual student problems/issues emerge due to a variety of reasons. The college environment is much different from its high school counterpart and some students actually resist learning. Students may also blurt our inappropriate statements that are disruptive. We have categorized inappropriate behavior into six categories:
If not addressed properly these behaviors can not only seriously affect pedagogy, but may also lead to other problems such as:
Professors need to directly face these problems. Faculty are the metaphorical “front-line” of college discipline, but faculty emotions may be affected by student behavior.
Some thoughts/feeling professors should confront/consider:
Ascertain the Problem’s Cause
With such a multitude of overlapping personal issues, students face many challenges of maturity that can affect the problem’s cause. Nevertheless, solutions are available.
College classrooms have a plethora of variables - course content, professor personality, professor’s teaching style, students’ personalities, and group dynamics. When all coalesces, pedagogy is enhanced and disruptive behavior is diminished. There is no exact formula, but pedagogy and personality are inseparable.
McKeachie (2002) addresses “problem students,” their behaviors, and strategies for those situations. Tips include:
While introverted and extroverted professors sometimes employ the same strategies, they more often handle disruptive behaviors in different fashions.
Other strategies that have worked for the introverted professor in this article are:
Applying McKeachie’s (2002) Teaching Tips: The Extroverted Professor
Other Strategies that have worked well for the extroverted professor in this article:
Each professor and student brings different expectations, experiences, goals, attitudes, and personalities to the classroom. Professors, regardless of their personality type, need to keep the classroom dynamics in focus each day. All professors, introverts and extroverts, can have a positive classroom environment with proper goals, preparation and strategies to deal with disruptive students.
Bartlett, T. (2004, September 17). Taking control of the classroom. The Chronicle of Higher Education, p. A8.
Chickering, A. (1978). Education and identity. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Gilroy, M. (2004). Invasion of the classroom cell phones. The Education Digest, 69(6), 5660.
Jaffee, D. (2004, July 9). Learning communities can be cohesive and divisive. The Chronicle of Higher Education, p. B16.
Jung, C. (1921). Psychological types. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Keith-Spiegel, P., Whitley, Jr., B.E., Balogh, D.W., Perkins, D.V., & Wittig, A.F. (2002). The ethics of teaching. 2nd ed. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Assoc.
McGlynn, A (2005). Teaching millenials, our newest cultural cohort. Education Digest, 71(4), 12-16.
McKeachie, W.J. (2002). McKeachie’s teaching tips: Strategies, research and theory for college and university teachers. 11th ed. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin.
Myers, I.B., Myers, P.B., McCaulley, M., Quenk, N.L & Hammer, A.L. (1998). MBTI Manual: A guide to the development and use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. 3rd ed. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.
Palmer, P.J. (1998). The courage to teach: Exploring the inner landscape of a teacher’s life. San-Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Smalley Mann, A. (2004). Eleven tips for the new college teacher. Journal of Nursing Education, 43(9), 389-397.
Sperber, M. (2005, September 9). Notes from a career in teaching. The Chronicle of Higher Education, p. B20.
Stephen is an Assistant Professor of Communication in the Department of University Studies at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia. He teaches KSU 1101: the First-year Seminar, and various communication classes.
Stephen has a BS in Socio-political Communication and an MA in Communication from Southwest Missouri State (Now Missouri State University) and a Ph.D. in Speech Communication with an emphasis in political rhetoric and public address and a minor field of study in political science from Louisiana State University. Additionally, Stephen is an EEOC Conflict Mediator (currently inactive).
Deborah is an Assistant Professor in the Department of University Studies at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, GA, USA. She teaches both KSU 1101: Freshman Seminar and KSU 4401: Senior Seminar. She also serves as the Coordinator of the Senior Year Experience.
Deborah holds a BA in Psychology from Furman University, a M.Ed. in Student Personnel in Higher Education from the University of Georgia and a Ph.D. in Higher Education from Georgia State University. She is also a certified Health Promotion Director.
The views expressed by the authors are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of The College Quarterly or of Seneca College.
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