On behalf of the Silent Learners project and our partners EDEN, NVL and ITHU, we (Alastair, Francisca and Jan Willem) would like to say a big thank you to everyone who contributed so honestly and enthusiastically to our webinar 15 March.
We started the process with a tweetchat on the subject 8 March and you can read the discussion on Storify. As preparation for the webinar we asked participants to watch the TedX video by Susan Cain, The power of introverts. The webinar itself attracted 141 registrations, 80 of whom attended the live session. Our intention was to focus on discussion and interaction and the chat window was active from the start with hundreds of comments and ideas by the end. The success of the webinar was very much due to Jan Willem’s involvement bringing his own experience as a silent learner to the forefront and many participants could identify with his story.
Webinar “The Power of Silent learners in a group”
The PPT of the webinar:
Tweetchat 8 March 2017
Archive tweetchat discussion: https://storify.com/EDEN25_Official/silent-learners-in-online-courses
Recording of the webinar
Why did participants joined the webinar?
- I know who they are – the Silent Learners- but I don’t know how to handle them
- How to better “see” and “hear” the silent learners in our distance program. No regular classroom, so we can’t really see them.
- The majority of my students are extroverts. What do I do with the few introverts that are part of the same groups, simultaneously?
- It is a perspective not so much discussed
- Some of my best students have been silent learners. I want to understand how best to support them without hassling them
- I’m a consultant in accessibility of ICT, particularly with respect to User Needs. I’m watching to pick up needs for silent learners relevant to ICT systems
- I have a background in higher ed administration (and I am a silent learner). I would like to learn more about how we can leverage technology for silent learners.
- After 25 years of campus based learning I have moved into online learning and realize how many of my learners find the solitude they need here – but we are measured externally by criteria relating to group work and engagement!
- Why are we talking about silent learners as if they are a problem?
- To make organizations more creative with diverse points of view, which easily will be unseen
- I am here because I read an article, just in an ordinary newspaper, about the different attitudes that meet introverts. If you google extrovert you find job ads. If you google introvert you get Anders Behring Breivik.
- I’m extrovert myself, but have had a lot of silent learners. The can be challenging for a extrovert person, cause either i’m chasing them or believe they have dropped-out
- At the teacher education program we constantly live with Vygotsky and Brunner, ZPD and scaffolding, learning together, in groups… what to do about the silent learners? How can we engage them? How can I have the patience with them?
- I’m not sure that you can empower others. They have to empower themselves
- Sometimes, the more extrovert take action and start communicating even though there might be more knowledge within introverts. I’d like to find ways for them to show what they now without having to leave their comfort zone
- I am a university lecturer and a lot of our education is based on group work.. it doesn’t suit everybody.
- My question is: what do silent learners need of information and communication systems that is different from noisy learners. I suspect there are some things but I don’t know what they are
- It is part of our learning culture to be silent learners in the Faroe Islands. Perhaps because of the small society.
- Or the northern latitude. I’m from Sweden and usually students are quiet. I think it has generally to do with geographic location and society.
- Finnish culture has this culture trait that silence can also be a natural and comfortable part of communication. (This is what our foreigners often mistaken for shyness or unsocial.) This perhaps gives more room for the introverted in general.
- I suspect one of my friends is an extreme introvert. We work on Argentinian Tango (leisure not work). I have noticed that in a small group he is fine but in a large group he goes to pieces and suffered great anxiety.
- My husband is a silent learner
- We recommend group contract, their the students have to deal with how they (group) shall handle the group work, see contract here (underlag för gruppkontrakt): http://hig.se/Ext/Sv/Biblioteket/Distansstudier-Flexibelt-larande/Pedagogiskt-stod.html#h-Arduredoforgrupparbete
- Does group size make a difference?
- Do people grow from one end of this dimension towards the other throughout life. Are people silent learners in some contexts but not in others ?
- Being a presenter in a webinar should be easier for an introvert than presenting IRL in front of a crowd?
- I think it’s very positive when you actually recognize that the student is the silent learner type. Like Cecilia says, when you see that a person is always on to the task in good time.
- The difficulty “disappears” with that knowledge
- How is silent learning and anxiety related ?
- Perhaps we need a better understanding of what we mean by engagement?
- Expectations to participate actively may cause stress and anxiety, it may have negative impact on the silent learner’s thinking and learning
- Is there a danger of thinking about this in binary terms – silent/noisy – rather than a spectrum.
- I agree. It’s not either/or.
- I agree, not everyone fits in a box. I myself can be more or less silent in different learning environments. Engagement doesn’t have to be “noisy”
- it’s difficult to distinguish lazy from silent in big groups that curate themselves. And that distinguish need to be done because our approach to each needs to be different
Silent Learners & Noisy Learners
“I have been a silent learner all my life but in recent years I work hard to be noisy”
“Yes, Jan Willem, the guilty feeling of not saying so much. I know it too.”
“It is right what Jan Willem is saying there: collaboration is important for all, also introverted.”
We agreed on the fact that there is not “a Silent Learner” or a “Noisy Learner”. Some Noisy learners are developed to “in between learners”, but they prefere café-style interaction. Some noisy learners developed themselves and like to collaborate because they developed their communication skills.
How people act in (online) groups depends on the size of the group, the group culture, background culture, the personal comfort level, the subject (where are we talking about), the setting, the moment, the personal energy level, feelings, stage of development of collaborating skills, the role of the teacher, facilitator, the goal of collaboration, the assignment, expectations (of teacher, parents, group,), self esteem, social context (life, work, family)…
What difficulties arise when collaborating with Silent learners in groups?
“They – the Silent Learners- probably have many valuable ideas, but nobody knows it”.
- There is a risk that they actually have to do more work because they might be told so by the extroverts in the group
- The noisy group members make them even more silent
- They probably have many valuable ideas, but nobody knows it.
- unless they know how to make themselves heard, their ideas might go unnoticed
- …and they won’t complain because it might not be in their nature…. i have one case right now
- it’s sort of a contract. Might be uncomfortable to share with people who don’t share back
- They tend to become more quiet, not joining in the group work.. being looked upon as not contributing.
- They want to be democratic, important that everybody participates to move forward. They get stuck in making decisions because they want to wait for all.
- I always have students that leap in and take charge.. which leaves those who take their time isolated from the process.
- They do not make the most of group collaboration so sometimes, as a teacher, I feel almost as if I am wasting their time
- Time zone differences, cultural differences, the different drivers for people participating
- I feel they sometimes lose their motivation to learn
- The SL wants to take her part and do it by herself, then come back to the group. Working together is often waste of time, she thinks.
- We need to discuss and set expectations for collaboration and not assume that everyone knows what they need to do
- If they dominate the group or group formation, there might be a slow start of the group work
- Life is designed for extroverts. AND learning outside of the education system is also
- Many groups have a 80/20 balance where two individuals take up 80% of the time and leave 20% for the rest to share. A silent learner will take any of the attention.
- I have much more difficulties with people not attending as they are supposed to concerning assignments and such.
- I think the difficulties can related to mode – if students can collaborate remotely, in their own space and time and not in real time (e.g. allowing time for reflection by using forums across e.g. a 3 day period, they are more likely to engage when they have had time to think, plan and share
- The bigger the group the less taking part . Partner work might work.
- I teach, to-be professionals (Nutrition), in a profession that also rewards extroverted, noisy learners. So it is natural that the education has to prepare for that. So lots of group work, which is difficult. I am not sure how to provide a broader array of learning opportunities for silent learners without disadvantaging them in the workplace.
- Reflective people take more time to act and discuss. And probably change their stand in a matter of minutes….or hours…
- Let them be bored! Yes, we need time to process all the information constantly surrounding us!
- Sometimes it’s necessary to allow special arrangements to keep the silent people alive, but this seems to irritate the others. They feel the teacher or the boss is not being just for the majority
- It is right what Jan Willem is saying there: collaboration is important for all, also introverted.
- How does social anxiety fit with this? for example fear of being exposed in front of a group
- I’m not an introvert myself, but, as a teacher, when including group discussions in my lessons, I have received complaints from students about “negative” group dynamics ONLY when fellow group members were unprepared for the discussion, NOT for being introverts.
- I think group size is an issue – we tend to do some pair work but for anything bigger we let learners choose the number and curate their own groups and roles OR work alone.
- I see social anxiety as being different. For me as an introvert, it’s about the energy it takes from me rather than being anxious per se
- In live seminars I definitely see a problem with big groups – some take all the talking time and also semi-silent learners are quiet
- Online learning, e.g. flipped classrooms etc. might help silent learners to evolve in their one speed. we need more of that
Growing awareness in the webinar
- I Am beginning to wonder if a session on noisy learners is also needed – to get them to concentrate and read instructions properly and focus!
- Silence is a source of great strength.
- Do people grow from one end of this dimension towards the other throughout life. Are people silent learners in some contexts but not in others ?
- Empathy webinar might be useful. Empathy is helping to listen to silent learners.
- It’s a bit like “everybody likes football and loud pop music therefore if you don’t you are abnormal”
- Is it better to form groups by introverts/extraverts?
- Sometimes I wonder if we lose sight of the learning outcomes themselves in our obsession with group work and active engagement as the working mode!
- I think a lot of this is about awareness – self awareness of yourself as a learner and awareness of your students as a teacher?
- Are we stressed by silence?
- Why should an online discussion be structured better?
- The problem with diverse examinations/assignments at the university is that we have to examine and judge each student individually with regards to the learning goals of the course. There are no group credits given. (But we work continuously in groups.)
- Not blaming the noisy learners is another hard thing to do as a teacher
Tips: how to work with Silent learners?
Hold your horses, extraverts!
Give 5 minutes to everyone to write down their own thought and suggestions on the topic at hand (interrupt friendly but firmly all the arising discussions at this stage. This should be done in absolute silence – yes, the extraverted do have a tremendous urge to share their thoughts and discuss; just ask them to hold their horses just for a few minutes; REF: http://www.innotiimidigitalservices.com/news-blogs/2016/3/4/how-to-activate-the-introverts-in-meetings
There are a lot of examples for group work. This is one page. In Swedish… https://kooperativt.com/
Topic discussions We offered Adobe connect seminars (not compulsory) but students didn’t participate. Some blamed the poor quality and others said they didn’t need it. I have replaced the seminars with topic discussions where participation is compulsory. I think this gives the opportunity for silent learners to be more active. It gives them time to read and reflect on the topic discussed. Huge success actually
The Silent Leader
Could it be an advantage to let the SL to take charge of the group work? Then they can set the pace…
Let there be silence and think…
It’s OK for the webinar teacher to be silent. It allows the students to think in peace .-)
Everyone get 4 minutes
Let everybody have a fixed amount of minutes to speak ….. to avoid that the noisy ones talk all the time
One, two, group
In live teaching I usually structure the seminar in the following order: think for yourself on this question (whatever is in focus), discuss in pairs what problem you want to discuss, and finally discussion in the whole group ( no more than 7-8 participants)
A simple way to involve all: http://www.innotiimidigitalservices.com/news-blogs/2016/3/4/how-to-activate-the-introverts-in-meetings
A-synchronous is OK
Have asynchronous assignments, where all learners can participate on their own terms
Clear competences and an Escape room
Giving group tasks, where different kind of competences are needed (maybe a special kind of Escape room)
Different is normal
The group must also enlarge the view of “normality”
Zen for teachers
Trainers etc need to get used to silence and not be afraid of it
How to empower the Silent learner for collaboration?
“A part of confirming your knowledge is to formulate it, and try it on others.”
- That an online group gives you the best of the two! Scenario: (It is simply easier to study independently at my own pace)
- I would like to give the student some time to prepare before a group assignment
- Make structure and decide who does what in the group work
- Some learner have high degree of self-directedness, don’t feel they have to group work to learn. Dialogue is not always the answer. Structure of the learning material is often vital fast learning “silent learners”…
- I try to prepare them for it. Warn them it’s coming up and ask them to put time aside to do it. Preparation seems to work
- I would invite the learner to take on a specific role
- The other participants in the group are interested to hear your view. They are truly curious!
- Discussions in a group will provoke your thoughts on the subject and will depthen your learning and understanding of the subject
- That way you can’t help the group, and that’s an important element of this specific course. Maybe?
- Think of all the ideas you could get from the others. Those could help you to develope your own ideas even further.”
- Make a group with only silent learners
- I would like to give all the students structure and time to prepare before meetings but also the possibility to prepare in groups or as individuals – whatever they prefer
- a clear agenda for each session
- Point out that even if you want to study for yourself, group dynamics is very important to widen one’s view of things. Simply put it, you might miss things if you do some things yourself
- I would point out how developing it can be to be questioned and discuss further than you can do on your own.
- It might seem easier, but eventually you’ll find out that you will prosper a lot from hearing other’s view on the topic.
- Even though it might not be your best form of learning, it is good practicing to participate in groups, you will most likely need it afterwards in professional life, now you can get accustomed to it in a safe environment.
- There isn’t a general answer – it depends on the kind of learning – for example consider that mathematics is quite different from dance
- I would discuss the matter with the whole group to change the idea of what is normal together
- If a student of mine would say that, I would explain that because of the Bologna process, they need to be evaluated also with group work. however, I am personally solidarious with the feeling because I am exactly like that.
- i would say; learning should perhaps not be about what is “easiest”…
- You can still study at your own pace but it is necessary to learn together as well. I would maybe ask the group to decide on roles or give them clear instructions
- that’s ok but you have a lot to offer the group. I’d also ask them to share something specific like a relevant comment they may have emailed me
- I would try to get the student involved in designing some of the group activities If a student of mine would say that, I would explain that because of the Bologna process, they need to be evaluated also with group work. however, I am personally solidarious with the feeling because I am exactly like that.
- I would suggest that either s/he pick one or two key contributions to make initially (so it feels manageable) and maybe commit to responding to one point from a peer that interest you – so set some simple parameters rather than leave it open
- Collaboration can be quiet, if the groups are mixed. A silent learner learns a lot by listening. By grouping all the silent learner together we remove this and nobody learns at all?
- I think intellectual learning is quite different to learning where social and emotional learning is involved
- The OPERA-model propose that you just work in pair in the beginning. Then address questions/answers further on i bigger groups / arenas – webinars…
- Also allow online students to decide upon their own mode of sharing e.g. oral upload, written text etc
- But I as a teacher have a need to hear you, because your ability to express yourself is a factor when i “grade” you.
- Formulate questions that are concise
- Maybe allow people to contribute using different media – text, voice, film. More asynchronous group work.
- I would say that he might not have the need, bt other could benefit with his sharing of his knowledge
- Make safety, support and time
- Speak softly
- But we can express without words
- I would say that this is some kind of “defence” most of the time. If you try and something positive happens you will get a little bit encouraged
- Make him/her to show his/her expertise in one of the subjects which they really are experts
- Learning social skills like this is still important. You don’t have to force yourself to be loud, but sharing some of your ideas would be very nice. And also fair.
- In a face to face setting, nodding and smiling to express agreement is fine
- explain the importance of hearing everyone as part of democracy, we need to hear everyone to better education
- That everyone has something to learn from everybody else in the group
- I would initially work offline with the student, to help them identify where they can make a contribution to a topic / discussion, and then manage the session to allow the student to contribute
- Slow down guys!
- There are no wrong answers
- Prepare them that you’d like a response in a certain period of time
- They don’t have to say anything if it makes them feel uncomfortable
- “That is ok! I understand you!”
- Think before you talk
- Learning often requires that you put yourself in an uncomfortable situation
- In an online discussion there is time to think and prepare.
- But being present is good
- I think that you have to be clear with the purpose of the discussion
- Take your time
- That’s fine – just say that you feel this way
- If speaking is the problem. Let them use a tool as Padlet.com
- I don’t know what to say but as a teacher I would try my best to create a safe atmosphere
- As I don’t use chats – only discussion forums and contributions are compulsory I don’t have this problem
- think before you speak and give space to people who do
- Try to take in anything without judgement, ask questions in a warm way.
- Also just expressing somehow that you are listening (and perhaps agreeing) would help.
- First do a discussion, then a short thinking time, then take a round in te group, one at the time.
- Avoid real time discussions if they are not necessary.
- Making a game: where everybody is supposed to give a wrong answer
- I also think that i silent learner maybe loose the concentration if there are a lot of action.
- Actually I dont like chats (like this) becauses you don’t have time to read and reflect on what others have written
- The group meeting needs to be prepared
- I agree that a chat can be stressful. You can read it more slowly in the recorded version
- not all learning is intellectual
- Action learning, learning by doing might help
- A teacher or learner could be the Chairperson and create a safe environment with mutually agreed/negotiated rules for contribution and maybe allow people to play different roles e.g. scribe on whiteboard, notetaker can be an easier role to play initially but you still contribute to group effort.
- How do we help everyone to think deeper? With less spontaneous…?
- Group members should be made aware that individuals even have the right to keep silent in a group discussion ; as long as one stays silent absolutely all the time.
- I am very selective with my input in online discussions or live discussions and the only time I write something is when I give them a question back
- Ask all learners to identify one key point that stood out to them in the spontaneous discussion and share these (could even be done anonymously e.g. on post-it notes) – then Chairperson use these points to shape next stage of discussion
- Separates production and assessment of proposals– provides more ideas, create peace of mind, dear more. Criticism is being replaced by positive selection for further discussion…
- I think it would be great if we all were less judgmental.. less valuing.. it is not better to think first or think afterwards.. it is just two different ways of handling what you need to handle
About the chat function and online meeting instead of IRL meeting:
- I’d like to have a more structured chat.
- In a forum, maybe not in a chat.
- It is often too fast and going off in multiple directions
- Not always easier due the pace at which the discussions move
- In an online meeting there aren’t all the stressful elements of a contact meeting.
- Then you don’t have to answer directly
- Possibly… it can give as I wrote before – the best of two worlds.
- Not in my experience
- It depends on the structure of the online discussion…
- Depends on time for the discussion, spontaneous i prefer spoken but asynchronous is great online
- No, I disagree online communication is easier. I prefer more unencumbered non-verbals
- Online are often easier to filter while reading
- a lot of social obstacles are removed, for example interruptions
- You are confusing live chats with discussion forums
- I agree. Being a distance teacher all our discussions are online. But silent learners are usually (I feel) quite silent online as well.
- Well, it is easier because you can think and type at your own pace and still get to contribute.
- Webinar is a kind of Group memory – any suggestions are visible, process är transparent and parallel…
- A forum of sorts might be a better tool for online discussion
- Agree, and I think it is more better to make everyone’s voice heard.
- More asynchronous communication should benefits silent learners. Everyone answers at their own pace.
- Good point, but it depends on the online discussion, is it structured or not. (this one is Also face to face discussions can be structured e.g. Art of Hosting
- Not sure…why should an online discussion be structured better?
- I agree with this if the discussion is constructed in such a way that continual contribution is not expected (attending quietly can be an option in real-time – you can always post later). Also if contributions can include asking questions, developing points made by others, affirming other people’s points of view. These are ways to contribute without putting yourself on the line immediately.
- I think for the shy an online chat is easier. But I don’t think shyness is the same as silent learner. We can see here that a structured discussion can be difficult even online
- I think it’s easier for SL students perhaps because they can contribute when they can rather than having to try and talk over other people
- This depends on the structure, chat is messy, messageboards may take tie or you don’t get response at all In RL you can take control of what you wanna continue discuss… different forums different strengths and weaknesses
- Easy to document – all recognize themselves in documentation
- I wouldn’t be saying a word here was I to speak aloud. But it would be important to have the chance to read and reply as somebody said in this discussion before. This I mean in general, it is good to have this opportunity to take this webinar.
- So it is really important for a silent learner as well as a noisy learner to learn about themselves.
- Silent learners are not necessarily anxious about talking/writing, thay just don’t have the need, they don’t learn that way.
- A simple way to involve all: http://www.innotiimidigitalservices.com/news-blogs/2016/3/4/how-to-activate-the-introverts-in-meetings
- We have to acknowledge different types of expressions and also different media to express oneself
- There are a lot of models to use….
- Let them take their time.
- Make everybody in class /the groups aware of the different learner types and their strengths
- Using different learning activities…
- ave a short session or info about various types of learners, before working in groups – online
- Have asynchronous assignments, where all learners can participate on their own terms
- At synchronous online learning I think the facilitator must use more structures for free discussion, thinking and sharing thoughts. But first it has to be communicated with the group.
- Giving group tasks, where different kind of competences are needed (maybe a special kind of Escape room)
- Diversity in exams and learning activities
- Completely agree – one size doesn’t fit even all silent learners
- Silence is ok
- The problem with diverse examinations/assignments at the university is that we have to examine and judge each student individually with regards to the learning goals of the course. There are no group credits given
- It’s ok to be silent, rather trendy thinking of down-shifting, mindfulness etc.
Was the webinar valuable?
Evaluation of the webinar
- V. interesting & interactive!. Really made me think of how to empower silent learners in language teaching (Twitter)
- Beginning to understand the power of silent learners. (Twitter)
- It was valuable because of the interview with a real SL
- Valuable because I started to think about the SL
- Really useful and thought provoking
- Didn’t get what I came for but it was interesting and fun so time well spent
- Thank you for this interesting webinar!
- It was very interesting! I think all teachers must be more aware about the silent learners. Jan Willem Kemper expressed the feelings and needs very good. Francisa facilitated it very good -(and spoke slowly and clearly). Thank You.
- It’s not necessary to put focus at the silent learner. I think it’s the teachers/facilitators role to organize och structure the session so it will be a democratic classroom. I think we have a lot to learn from the “Cooperative Learning Structures”.
- Big thanks for an interesting discussion. Over and out!
- I got a lot of new thuoghts, that I will try to use in my future teaching
- It make me aware of taking care of the Silent learner better
- Valuable webinar, because it gave me important views on this topic
- Great work
- Very valuable to me, become more aware of the SL, thank you very much,. Nice short webinar with positive input, just great.
- A special thanks to Jan Wilhelm. Super useful input.
- … it was nice to get some concepts and thoughts regarding this topic.
- It was valuable, interesting and important topic
- Valuable. But although I am orange (extravert) I need to think about this before I know what will I do with this information.
- An eye-opening webinar
- It was nice to discuss just this
- It was valuable, pinpointing on questions I was not used to think about
- It was valuable, new thoughts that I want to share with my collegues. Fun and interactive.
- Nice way of getting a lot of input in a really short amount of time
- Not blaming the noisy learners is another hard thing to do as a teacher
- Great webinar with discussions and contributions included
- Very valuable; an opportunity to adapt my teaching to suit some of my students’ learning needs
- It was valuable, because I became more aware of myself. Idea: Maybe the division Silent/Noisy learners is a litle to narrow, there are so many other ways.
- I found this webinar valuable because of the range of individual perspectives available, and the wealth of ideas shared – prompted me to go away and reflect further
- Great to have the discussion
- Opens up the door to a group that may be forgotten
- Valuable. because it made me think about taking some time to consider my students
- Food for thought! Thank.
- Very well run webinar.
- It is a pitty that I didn’t know about these webinars before. Thank you. I will be back!
Downloads, Links & documents
- Video of Susan Cain: the Power of introverts: https://www.ted.com/talks/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts#t-1118278
- Susan Cains Readinglist: https://www.ted.com/talks/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts/recommendations
- Silent learners blog: A NordPlus project investigating different forms of participation in online learning and their meaning for organizers: https://silentlearnersblog.wordpress.com/
- The webinar about “Silent Learning” about online guidance and silent learners. See: https://silentlearnersblog.wordpress.com/activities/
Recording of the webinar: : https://frea.adobeconnect.com/_a853756483/p7emw2wl4yi/?launcher=false&fcsContent=true&pbMode=normal
- Book Human Dynamics: https://www.amazon.com/Human-Dynamics-Framework-Understanding-Organizations/dp/1883823072
- Human Dynamics International
- Article: http://www.ednewsdaily.com/quiet-in-the-classroom-how-to-recognize-and-support-introverted-entrepreneurs/
- The Tyranny of Participation and Collaboration in Networked Learning http://www.networkedlearningconference.org.uk/past/nlc2008/abstracts/PDFs/Hodgson_640-647.pdf
Blogs about the webinar
Questions for Francisca, Jan Willem or Alastair