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Class Participation Slump

Feeling the impending doom of a bad class participation grade?

Writer Wen Yi has some tips to help you out!

Source; Elissa Garcia via Unsplash

Dear fellow SMUgger,

With the midterm break approaching, you may be starting to feel increasingly dejected at the thought of class participation as you recall the times you stayed painfully silent in class while staring in awe at your fellow classmates effortlessly articulating their thoughts.

Perhaps you have even resigned to your fate of getting a less than ideal class participation grade and you wonder: Is this the famous (or infamous) interactive teaching pedagogy that you have only heard so much about?

Well, in any event, fret not as I am here to give you some advice on how you can twist your fate around and achieve a stellar A+ class participation grade in no time!

  1. Collaborating with friends: SMU’s teaching pedagogy focuses heavily on collaborative work which means that there is a group project in nearly every module. As we head into the hectic project season, this presents opportunities for you to join forces with your friends in class. You could explore the option of exchanging materials with your friends before your respective presentations and grab the chance to prepare some questions in advance. Alternatively, a simpler solution would be to ask if they require any audience members to participate for some interactive elements within their presentations.

  2. Prepare, prepare, prepare: They say that chance favours the prepared - the same is true for class participation! It helps immensely to go through readings before class, digest the information, and list out any queries that you may have. For the purposes of class participation, I would say having an arsenal of 3-4 questions would suffice.

  3. Taking that first stab: The hardest part of any journey is always the first step. With your list of questions in hand, take heart and raise that hand! Once you ease into the rhythm of participating in class, it will become easier and before you know it, you’ll be asking so many questions in class – a star student!

  4. Picking low-hanging fruit: Not everyone can ask those brilliant thought-provoking questions and it is completely alright to pick low-hanging fruit every once in a while. By that, I refer to answering basic questions your professor may ask regarding what the learned author argued in his textbook or what formula to apply in the present problem. You will usually have the answers to these questions at the back of your mind and I would recommend students testing the waters of class participation for the first time to grab those opportunities.

  5. Listening attentively in class: Your fellow classmates would often have a unique perspective on the issues that are brought up in class and sometimes all it takes is to listen attentively to what they have to say and that just might provoke your thoughts. Perhaps you would like to play devil’s advocate and offer a differing view to what you have to say. Don’t get too carried away though!

Finally, a word of encouragement for all SMUggers out there - it is ok to feel that your first few weeks of class participation wasn’t the most outstanding. It is after all a learning process and we are all here to better ourselves. I can tell you that I have lost count of the number of times I have had my class participation shut down by a harsh no from the professor. Be nice to your fellow classmates in the process as well. It is not a zero-sum game whereby one party’s loss is another’s gain. Be courteous as always. Now go out there and grab those class participation marks!

Yours sincerely,

Your fellow trench buddy Wen Yi

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