Overcoming inhibitions

October 2, 2014

I read Bruce Macfarlane’s feature “Speaking up for the introverts” (25 September) with interest. It is not just students for whom shyness can be an issue. In my research into how students describe excellence in teaching, the performative elements such as lecturing were overwhelmingly the most often mentioned. Students seem to rate more highly those staff who can entertain them with a lecture that is memorable and stimulating. Far less likely are they to comment on the studious and dedicated seminar tutor who might facilitate more and deeper learning than that performance.

That said, shyness and introversion are not necessarily the same thing - few people who know me would say that I am shy, and I am confident in lectures and other settings. Put me at a conference where I know no one, however, and you will find me sitting in the corner, desperate to melt into the wall. I know that there are those who teach who feel the same: the big “performance” lecture is a doddle, but the idea of being in a room
with one or two dozen students up close and personal sends them into a tailspin.

We need to find ways to support staff as well as students for whom shyness or introversion might be perceived as a “performance” issue.

Matthew J. Williamson
Head of educational development and director of the academic development programme
Centre for Academic and Professional Development
Queen Mary University of London

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