Active learning for Introverts

Posted by Brit Giesbertz, on Oct. 16, 2023, 6:50 p.m.

Brit Giesbertz

Faculty of Science, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands

Didactical Educator


Challenge and goal

In higher education, a notable shift towards active learning pedagogy is evident, supported by research demonstrating its efficacy in enhancing student learning and engagement. However, this approach often emphasizes extraverted qualities such as verbal participation and group interactions. While beneficial, it may inadvertently sideline introverted students who excel in reflection and deeper analysis (Cain, 2012). To ensure inclusivity and tap into the full spectrum of student capabilities, educators should consider integrating activities that allow introverted qualities to flourish—thoughtful reflection, in-depth contemplation, and creative ideation—facilitating a more balanced and enriching learning experience.

The goal of this user case is to inspire and create active learning acitivities and assessments that give more space to Introverted qualities.


Topic of the user case

Rethinking and redesigning Active Learning activities from the perspective of Introverts.


Local context (specific)

Active learning environments reflect constructivist theory of learning. Based on this understanding of learning, knowledge resides within an individual's understanding and is therefore not transferred, but constructed or reconstructed by each learner as they make sense of new information by relating it to their existing knowledge and experiences.

Professional development programs at the Faculty of Science UvA promote the design of active learning environments. In practice, many teachers create a learning environment that emphasizing mostly extraverted competences like group work; assertiveness, frequent verbal engagement, action focused and bigger picture focused activities. This potentially overshadowes introverted strengths like introspection, deep analysis, good listening, observant, better in 1-on-1 settings, focused.

Constructivism highlights the need to acknowledge diverse cognitive styles for effective knowledge construction. To address this, active learning environments should balance group dynamics with individual reflection, diversify communication channels, and appreciate introverted contributions for a comprehensive learning experience.

For teachers, the challenge lies in assessing learning progress in real-time within a social setting. Group-focused, extraversion-oriented environments allow easier observation and evaluation of student engagement through visible actions and verbal interactions. However, this focus on extraverted competences may inadvertently neglect introverted learners' strengths in reflection and analysis. Achieving a balance is vital to recognize and value both introverted and extraverted competences, adapting teaching approaches to accommodate diverse learning styles. Teachers must ensure all students, including quieter and introspective individuals, have equal opportunities to showcase their abilities, fostering inclusivity and enriching the learning experience.

At the Science Faculty of the University of Amsterdam this question has surfaced in past Teacher Professionalisation programs. Now hopefully we can explore this topic into more depth and create usable activities that teachers can implement in their teaching practice. 

Local CPD goals

The local goals are to inspire lecturers to rethink and redesign active learning elements in their courses from the perspective of a more introverted student. So after this workshop lecturers will be able to:

  • describe what the characteristics are of extravert and introvert personalities;
  • distinguish to which competences the learning activities of their course calls upon;
  • redesign learning activities towards active learning activities that call upon introverted qualities.

Needs defined in STEM-CPD Roadmap

19 design active learning classes / sessions using digital technology
21 use design thinking methods
8 develop critical thinking by students
3 inspire a positive attitude in their class.
4 make students feel special, included, safe and secure.
1 be reflective teachers and reflect about their courses / lectures.
7 read literature about teaching and learning in higher education.
13 analyse the effect of teaching and introduce changes in an evidence based way.
8 discuss teaching with their colleagues.
1 reading books / journal articles on teaching and learning in HE.
4 attending hands-on workshops on specific continuous professional development (CPD) topics.
10 attending workshops that are organized generally for lecturers from different disciplines.

CPD activities at the local university

A two hour workshop:

Before the workshop lecturer is asked to do the following 3 things:

  • Watch a video (19 min);
  • Read an article in which they have to underline the elements in the mentioned active learning examples will benefit introvert personalities;
  • Think of which learning activity or lesson from their practice, where they would like to create deeper understanding of the students.


During the workshop we will meet face to face and do 3 main activities:

  • Discuss the article
  • Create a fictive student persona with introvert characteristics
  • Redesign the learning activity to fit the perspective of that persona


Two months after the workshop participants are asked to fill in a short questionnaire reflecting on their experiences implementing the redesigned activities and other possible effects of the workshop.


Teaching and learning materials


Ted Talk of Susan Cain on The power of Introverts (2012).



King, A. (1993). From sage on the stage to guide on the side. College teaching, 41(1), 30-35.

Click link to open resource.



Miro board to build persona of student with introvert characteristics.


Sustainable implementation

  1. The workshop can be part of our existing Teaching & Learning Centre program at the faculty of Science of the University of Amsterdam.
  2. The workshop can be shared with our TLC educators network for other faculties to implement in their programs. To introduce this I will share the set-up in our 6-weekly CoP meetings and share the material on our Teams channel.
  3. The workshop can be potentially also be part of our Universities education day, depending on its topic.


Expected impact of the CPD User Case

Inspire teachers to create active learning activities that cater to both extraverted and introverted characteristics.

Give teachers such hands on ideas, implementation will be evident.


Plans for eventual continuation of the CPD within the same topic

Two months after the meeting a short evaluation form will be sent to the participating lecturers to reflect on the applicability in their practice and other possible effects of the workshop.

Competence design interactive teaching, Problem solving (design and teaching), Deep learning (type P1-2b, P1-3a, P1-3c)

This CPD scenario describes a User case in which lecturers develop their competence in designing interactive teaching and facilitating problem solving and how to facilitate student’s deep learning and development of higher cognitive skills and develop attitudes in supporting student development and enabling students’ well-being in a learning process and inclusivity and reflecting on own teaching practice and practicing teaching and learning in an evidence informed way and knowledge sharing.
The approximate duration of a User case that follows this scenario is several months.
In this CPD scenario the participants meet in person on location with the training staff and with other participants.

Learning environment
Several months

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See also