How open learning space can work for introverts, extroverts & ambiverts: D.A.R.E.

Let me give you a snapshot of myself.  

I like people, I enjoy conversation. I am quite comfortable in settings where I don’t necessarily know anyone. I don’t find it difficult to strike up a conversation with a new person. I’m fairly confident communicating with small and large groups. I actually enjoy a good meeting, with robust discussion and clear outcomes. On this basis, you could say that I’m an extrovert.

On the other hand, I’m not actually energised by being in crowds. I regularly seek time to be in my own head, working alone. I would rather have dinner with my family or a small group of friends, than work-the-room at a party.  I love reading and sharing thoughts and ideas through writing. On this basis, you could say I’m an introvert.

beyond1.jpgI’ve been reading about the impact of noise distraction on introverts and extroverts and couldn’t quite work out where I fit. Lately, it seems that being an introvert ‘is the new black’. So I decided to take a few online tests (based on ‘what?’, I don’t know), but these were the results of four tests:

  • Extrovert
  • More extrovert (than introvert, I think)
  • Mild Introvert
  • Ambivert

An ‘ambivert’ is a person who balances traits of both the extrovert and introvert in their personality. Like most things today, we can think about this personality trait spectrum. This article: 9 signs that you’re an ambivert explains further.


Being an extravert, introvert or ambivert, preferences the way we work and learn. Noise impacts our productivity, often dependent on the type of task we are doing and  our personality trait.

Noise sensitivity is a core personality factor (Oseland and Hodsman, 2015). The learning environment can be designed with this in mind, allowing for a quiet place for the introvert to work on a complex task, and the extrovert to be amidst the buzz of activity for simple task. Oseland and Hodsman propose a people-centred approach to acoustic solutions in the office environment – DARE:

  • Displace noise distractions by providing easy access to informal meeting areas, breakout and brainstorming rooms
  • Avoid generating noise distraction by locating noisy teams together and considering the personalities
  • Reduce noise distraction by controlling the density and using good acoustic design
  • Educate by introducing etiquette and agreed behavioural norms concerning phone use, music and managing disruptions

How would DARE work in the open and shared learning environment?

“Aren’t open learning environments better suited to extroverts?

“Don’t introverts just get frustrated by the noise?”

These are common questions. An open and shared learning environment doesn’t mean a great big barn with the sound bouncing around, creating an assault on eardrums. There needs to be an intention around designing collaborative spaces, but the execution of the idea must consider the details to make it work – noise, personalities and types of activities matter.  Here is DARE from the perspective of the open learning environment:

  • Displace: The design of the space provides zones for working in different ways, giving the learner agency, such as:
    • Quiet zones for individual work
    • Collaboration areas allowing for noise
    • An ‘in-between’ spaces where social connection can be maintained in the buzz.
  • Avoid: Consider the placement of collaboration areas and the proximity to quiet zones. This recognises the personalities of the students and the teachers, the task to be undertaken, and where they need or want to work.
  • Reduce: Wherever possible reduce the impact of the noise transference through good acoustic design, but also think about soft furnishings, flooring and the density of bodies inhabiting the space.  
  • Educate: Establish agreed norms of behaviour. The level of communication amongst teachers working in the spaces is critical. It is essential to each and model acceptable and respectful behaviours in shared environments.


Ref: Oseland, N. &  Hodsman, P (2015) Planning for Psychoacoustics: A Psychological Approach to Resolving Office Noise Distraction Prepared for: Saint-Gobain Ecophon

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