By Hannah Schultz, News Editor
When the professor stops a lecture and announces the dreaded “discussion” time, I am that person who sinks low into my seat, head down and purposely avoiding eye contact. Throughout my many years in the education system, I’ve had countless teachers tell me that I had great opinions if I’d only speak up more, or they wished I’d apply myself more in class because they couldn’t really tell if I was paying attention to their lecture. What they didn’t know was that I was in fact listening and perhaps retaining more information than most of my classmates; I just had a different way of understanding their lessons. Myself and my fellow called-out-in-front-of-the-class adverse are internal processors.
Internal processors need to think about information that is presented to them in order to process it. Usually internal processors will remain quiet in groups until they feel they’ve fully explored every aspect of the thought they wish to share. They sit back, listening and analyzing, taking time to really dwell on the topic. When choosing to speak, which is rare in most cases, an internal processor’s opinion will be well-crafted and clear.
External processors, on the other hand, process information by talking through it. By thinking out loud and testing ideas with others, they often arrive at a different perspective by the end of the conversation than they had in the beginning. Sometimes external processors must repeat information back to others in order for them to fully understand it.
So why should internal processors be treated differently in the classroom? When professors approach teaching with the mindset of forcing all of their students to conform to the same style of learning—often a lecture and discussion pattern—they alienate many students from being able to learn at all.
Internal processors need time and space to think about the information being presented to them. When a professor sets up their class in a discussion-style format, then many internal processors shut down in anxiety and panic. They cannot process the lecture or discussion because they are so consumed with worrying about being called out in front of the class at any moment. For many internal processors, sharing an incomplete thought is tantamount to humiliation. However profound the thought may be, if an internal processor like this does not feel he or she has had adequate time to come to a definite conclusion, then the comment will seem stupid and incorrect in their eyes.
This need for differentiated teaching methods also applies to external processors. They must be given ample opportunity to speak through their thoughts in order to fully learn the material. However, this problem is less prevalent since students with this processing style can take advantage of discussions among fellow classmates outside of the class time to understand lecture-oriented classes.
So I would ask that professors and students to be patient with me and my fellow internal processors. When I am averting my eyes and squirming in my seat at the thought of answering a spontaneous question in class, remember that it is not because I wasn’t paying attention to the lecture or am apathetic or shy. Perhaps by the end of the class, I will have an answer that is worthy enough in my opinion to be spoken aloud.