In a classroom setting, teachers are often challenged with identifying if a shy student is struggling with the class material or not. From a teacher’s perspective, a shy student may either seem to be having issues with the subject due to his or her reluctance to participate in class, or because the shy student is a serious, well-behaved student who is excelling and understanding the material. In either case, there’s no harm in approaching the seemingly shy student and confirming whether or not the student is absorbing the class material. In recent years, the incorporation of educational technology has not only started to shift the classroom dynamic, but is also making it easier for teachers to help shy students overcome in-class obstacles.
Making the decision to approach the shy student can be tricky, but here are 5 characteristics to keep in mind:
- Avoids talking – Undoubtedly, this is the most obvious sign. The shy student seldom raises his or her hand to ask or answer questions. Within class participation, the shy student will often seem reserved and will avoid interaction with classmates.
- Reflects before speaking – Rather than taking action quickly, like their extroverted counterpart, shy students practice in their heads before they speak. If they wish to speak up, they view reflection as in important part of their thinking process.
- Enjoys being quiet – Shy students would rather keep to themselves than be the center of attention. Attention focused from a group or a classroom full of students can feel overwhelming for the shy student.
- Prefers to work independently – Solitude and privacy are the preferred spaces of work for shy students. They prefer to work on their own or in small groups, and become easily agitated when their space is disturbed or they don’t have enough time alone.
- Communicates best one-on-one – It’s not uncommon for shy students to wait until the end of class to speak with the teacher or even fellow peers one-on-one. Where possible, written communication appeals to the shy student as a preferred alternative for expressing any opinions, concerns or questions.
So what can instructors do to facilitate and improve the shy student’s learning experience? There are many traditional approaches to easing the shy student into becoming more comfortable in the classroom, such as making regular one-on-one contact with the student, commenting on their successes, and assigning them partners to not only build more friendships, but also promote social development.
Although these strategies prove effective, educational technology can offer even more of an advantage for encouraging shy students to participate or voice any struggles they are experiencing in class. Here are some ways educational technology can help the shy student participate more, and not be afraid of asking for help:
- Engaging via social media – Integrating simple and easy-to-use social media apps can be used as a platform to encourage shy students to participate more or raise any questions. Shy students can share questions or comments, without worrying about feeling embarrassed or uncomfortable asking teachers via the raising-hand method in a traditional classroom setting.
- Empowering the shy student – A major challenge for teachers is creating an environment that encourages participation and growth for both shy and outgoing students. Again, social media or online chat forums provide a medium for shy students to voice their questions, opinions or knowledge—all without the fear of speaking in front of other classmates, and even gaining respect among peers who would otherwise perceive the shy student as withdrawn and awkward.
- Promoting student progress – With online learning management systems (LMS) and other communication technologies, teachers have the opportunity assess students’ learning progress by integrating and utilizing different assessment tools. In cases where a shy student is reluctant to express any struggles with the class material, an instructor has a chance to collect data from assessment tools and identify any student facing difficulties in class, who would otherwise not express by approaching the teacher directly.
- Creating feelings of comfort and familiarity – Various online apps, social media, and emerging technologies are well-ingrained in the lives of young students these days. If an educators aims to foster and enrich students’ learning experience, incorporating digital technologies in a class environment will build a sense of familiarity with the students. By weaving educational technology into the classroom, teachers can create a space that feels more welcoming—an atmosphere in which the shy student may feel more encouraged to participate.
- Making material more relevant – One challenge teachers often come across is finding a way to make class material, such as math or science, more relevant to real-world applications. Overhead projectors and PowerPoint presentations just don’t cut it anymore. By integrating various educational technology in the classrooms—from video lectures, online learning platforms to assessment tools—the teacher can present a more engaging and interactive way of teaching the material in a more relevant light, making it easier to connect with shy students and encouraging more participation.
The challenge still remains for teachers dealing with shy and withdrawn students, who either refuse to participate in class or communicate any questions they have with the subject. Educational technology can serve as a tool to break down the barriers between shy students and teachers. Face-to-face interaction can’t be entirely removed from the equation, but stimulating class discussions can be made possible for students of all types, and students’ progress, both struggling and excelling, can be captured and addressed immediately. With a successful blend of educational technology in the classroom, shy students have a chance to make their voices heard and vastly improve their learning experience.
Emmanuel Ponce is an intern with Enable Education.