Are you or your kids introverts? Do you have friends who are introverted? If you know of people with introverted personalities, people who feel more comfortable addressing their own thoughts and feelings rather than most person-to-person interactions, then you already know some of the defining traits of a solitary learner, or an intrapersonal learner. In general, solitary learners are the opposite of social learners, as they like to learn by themselves instead of in a group. So how do you help an intrapersonal learner have a better learning experience in a homeschool environment? Well, often a homeschool environment is more naturally suited to a solitary learner because it offers fewer group learning options. But there are some specific things you can do to help a solitary learner. Let’s take a look at some characteristics of and strategies for how to help this type of learner.
What is an intrapersonal or solitary learner?
Again, an intrapersonal learner is someone who likes studying independently, without needing to talk to other people or ask them questions. Solitary learners prefer to do and learn things on their own. They will find other people distracting when they’re trying to learn or complete a project. In contrast, social or interpersonal learners will enjoy bouncing ideas off other people when learning. The key to understanding a solitary learner’s needs is the word independence. Solitary learners like to come to their own conclusions and solve problems themselves. They enjoy the process and the accomplishment, and they may feel frustrated if they need to work with someone else before they’ve finished thinking through their ideas.
Characteristics of a Solitary Learner
- Can work independently
- Has strong or reliable self-management skills
- May enjoy reading assignments, book work, journaling, or other writing projects
- Prefers to finish thinking through topics before discussing them
- Struggles to draw conclusions through discussion
- Feels confident with independent study
- Knows their own strengths and weaknesses
Study Tips for Intrapersonal Learners
- Get a body double. Yes, you read that right. Body doubling—often used to great effect by students with ADHD—is having another person nearby as you work. Just because a child is a solitary learner doesn’t mean they must work in solitude. The term intrapersonal means “within oneself.” A solitary learner requires independent work, but all people are relational beings and benefit from the nearness of other people, even if they don’t talk as they work.
- Allow for thinking time. Give your student time to think through concepts and ideas alone before talking about them.
- Study independently. Look for independent study options rather than group-focused ones. Have your student read through their notes either out loud or silently, complete assignments alone, and memorize information alone.
- Ensure assignments are fully prepared. Before assigning homework, make sure your student has everything needed for completing a project or finishing the work.
- Ask questions. For an intrapersonal learner, the “do it yourself” impulse can be strong, and your student may forget to ask questions or avoid them altogether. Encourage your student to ask questions when they have them.
Solitary Learning Strategies
Naturally, learning strategies that will appeal most to a solitary learner will be strategies that don’t require groups or collaboration. Solitary learners will often prefer silent or independent reading, journaling, and single-student activities or experiments.
Model learning activities.
Modeling is a teaching and learning strategy that begins with a teacher walking through each step of completing an assignment or activity. This strategy does require the teacher to plan the example carefully, and to think out loud as the teacher works through the problem. Modeling activities doesn’t usually mean the student has to discuss or talk through the activity. As the teacher completes the steps, the student watches and listens, often following along with an example activity.
Choose lecture style instruction.
Because solitary learners will often prefer to think through ideas and concepts themselves, lecture style instruction will give learners plenty of time to consider new ideas independently without group discussion. Lecture style teaching strategies typically don’t require immediate or direct feedback from students on what they’re thinking about the topic or what kind of conclusions they’re drawing. This approach lets students work through their own ideas in their notes or during homework time or independent reading later.
Choose independent learning opportunities.
Independent learning opportunities, like a self-taught approach or a pre-recorded video course option, are also good learning strategies for solitary learners. These approaches often have limited or no requirements for group interaction and give students plenty of time for independent thinking.
Make sure expectations are clear.
Because solitary learners like to work independently, having unclear expectations can frustrate them unnecessarily. Solitary learners often have the self-management skills necessary to fully complete assignments and projects without much additional help, and it can be frustrating for them if they have missing or unclear expectations for the kind of work they’ll need to do. For solitary learners, make sure they have clear learning objectives—many curriculums will include stated learning objectives for each lesson—and rubrics for any project or writing assignment that they’re completing.
Intrapersonal Learning Activities
What kind of learning activities will be best for a solitary or intrapersonal learner? Again, obviously an intrapersonal learner will naturally gravitate toward activities that don’t require collaboration or group work. However, it’s important to remember that learning activities don’t just teach skills or information about the topic of the lesson. Often they teach other skills that are helpful in making the student a well-rounded, adaptable learner. Choosing activities based only on your own or your student’s preferences can make it harder to develop those skills.
Clearly, a group project is exactly the opposite of what a solitary learner would prefer to do. However, group projects and other kinds of group work are important for developing the skills of collaboration, communication, and teamwork. Solitary learners are more likely to suffer from “I’ll do it myself” syndrome. Because they know their own strengths and weaknesses, they often feel more confident in completing a project alone rather than relying on someone else. Learning how to collaborate will be an important skill for intrapersonal learners. Doing at least one group project a semester or year will be a good opportunity for a solitary learner to develop those skills.
Intrapersonal learners are often naturally introspective people. So completing assignments that require them to voice their own thoughts can give them confidence and the ability to lean into a skill they are already good at. It will be important that journaling or other introspective activities remain private or have limited review. Limited review—checking for completion, not accuracy or grammar—gives solitary learners the freedom to truly work out their thoughts without needing to think about how best to write.
While note taking is often not thought of as a learning activity, it can be a valuable tool for solitary learners when studying and learning. Taking notes during a lecture or as students are reading gives them a place to refer to for study, research, and practice recall that doesn’t involve group work.
Lab Activities and Experiments
While lab activities and experiments are often done in groups, a solitary learner will find fulfillment and accomplishment in completing a lab independently. Being able to work through and follow the steps and draw a conclusion apart from a group will both give them opportunities for hands-on learning and fit into their need for independent learning.
How do I know if my child is a solitary learner?
Unlike some of the other learning styles, it’s usually easy to tell if a child is a solitary or a social learner. One of the simplest questions to use in finding out if your child is a solitary learner is: does the student seem to gravitate toward talking through lessons or thinking about them privately? A solitary learner won’t be ready to discuss a lesson until they’ve had time to process it alone. If you’re not sure whether your child is a solitary learner, try taking our Learning Styles Quiz to find out their learning preferences. Your child is likely some combination of the 7 Types of Learning Styles. A deep dive into each of the different learning styles is available to help you understand the characteristics of each learning style and the strategies and study tips that benefit them most. You might find a lot of overlap in the study tips and strategies for each learner, because some styles share similar traits with the others. And students will almost always benefit from using learning activities that do not align with their preferences. A multisensory learning experience will always be the most effective approach for students.