How To Teach Quiet Learners

 Journal Club Entry by Anne Sprogell, TUSM-Maine Track Program, M18

In order to understand how to teach a quiet learner, it is first important to understand a quiet learner. Shy, quiet, or introverted learners are generally characterized by increased reflective thinking and reduced sociability. Their strengths can include the ability to focus, pay attention to details, take thorough notes, and listen to patients and team members. However, these students can struggle with certain aspects of medical school including group discussions with a larger number of students, forming relationships quickly with colleagues in the ever-changing teams of residents and attendings on inpatient services, and in rounds when ideas need to be offered quickly and assertively. Despite these challenges, there might be a few tips that teachers can use to allow their quiet students to shine.

  1. Wait 5-10 seconds after asking a question for the quiet student to try to answer. Sometimes quiet students need a little more time to choose their words before they speak.
  2. If an extraverted student is dominating a small group with an introverted student, consider working with the extraverted to student to allow more time and space for the introverted student to contribute.
  3. If one student is dominating the conversation, redirect questions from that student to the quieter members of the team.
  4. Set expectations for the student’s participation and warn them the next time they will be asked to participate.
  5. If environment allows for it, offer space and time for students to practice presentations.
  6. If educational setting permits, allow introverted students time and space to recharge after socially demanding situations.
  7. Consider talking through cases one-on-one with an introverted student if they seem to be struggling in front of the entire team.
  8. If the learning environment allows for it, divide into smaller groups for discussion and use strategies like “think-pair-share.”
  9. Consider written assignments when appropriate. Quiet students might find it easier to express their thinking in a written format.
  10. Understand that quiet students may need to speak from notes, but will use them less as they become more comfortable.


  1. Davidson, B, et al. “Introversion and Medical Student Education: Challenges for Both Students and Educators.” Teaching and Learning in Medicine., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 13 Jan. 2015,
  2. Muller, Jessica, and David M. Irby. “Practical Teaching How to Lead Effective Group Discussions.” The Clinical Teacher, Blackwell Science Ltd, 16 May 2005,