There’s power in participation

Sarah Jones, Assistant Editor

Imagine you are sitting in class listening to your professor talk about the lesson they spent hours preparing for. They ask a question to the class clearly waiting for an answer from you or one of your classmates. You nervously look around, hoping someone is going to brave enough to answer before there is an opportunity for you to be volunteered.

After nearly one minute of waiting in silence, your professor calls your name and asks, “Sarah, would you like to answer for the class?”

You look around and hope that the “Sarah” the professor is referring to is not you, even though you know you are the only one in the class. You then bravely sit up a little higher in your seat, answer the question and the discussion begins.

Class participation is a frightening thing for some people because you do not want to be wrong in front of your peers. Some people find it embarrassing to speak in front of people.

Speaking from personal experience, I used to be a student who felt this way when the professor would call my name. My hands would get clammy, my face would turn beet red and my heart rate would shoot through the roof. Even if I knew my answer was correct, the mere thought of talking about it in front of the class made me want to run for the door.

Today, you can’t make me stop talking in my classes. Throughout my years of being in school, especially during my college career, I have learned that class discussions and participation help you learn more than when you sit in silence. Not only does it promote critical thinking for you and your peers, it also allows you to see different viewpoints about topics that you may have otherwise never heard if they went unspoken.

In my opinion, class participation is the most important component of learning new material aside from taking time to study on your own. When you stay silent, you could be holding yourself back from learning information that could be vital to your success or pique your interest in a new subject. No one will always have the right answers, and unless someone helps you correct your mistakes, you will not learn new things.

There is a difference in forcing someone to answer a question in an embarrassing manner and simply asking them to answer a question. After some conversations with peers and having my own experiences, I have found that students are less likely to participate in class when professors pressure students to answer by using intimidation tactics.

If a student, or anyone answering a question, feels as though they are being bullied into giving an answer, they are going to feel less inclined to answer. There is a right way to get someone to do something and using intimidation and/or bullying tactics is not it.

Engaging with your classmates is not as bad as people make it out to be since many of your peers are just as nervous to voice their opinion as you are. The more comfortable you make yourself around them, the more comfortable they become around you. This creates an environment for the classroom that promotes constructive criticism, thought provoking discussions and a relaxed learning atmosphere for everyone.