On the first day of class, nearly every teacher or professor will encourage you to participate. You’ve probably heard the classic line, “You’ll only get as much out of this class as you put into it.” Maybe you rolled your eyes, maybe you fearfully checked the syllabus to make sure there was no participation component of your grade, or maybe you thought to yourself that active participation doesn’t matter if you complete all your assignments and don’t act out in class. But participating in class does matter. Here are a few important reasons to engage, plus some simple ways to start speaking up.
Reasons to participate in class
The benefits of being actively involved in class are wide ranging. Whether you’re speaking up in a class discussion, asking clarifying questions, or answering a question, it all counts as participation! The most obvious benefit of participating in class is staying engaged in the lesson and retaining more information. Participation requires you to pay attention and prevents you from zoning out in class. It also demonstrates your dedication to the course to your instructors. Students who don’t care typically don’t speak up in class, so your willingness to participate speaks to your level of commitment and effort in the course.
You’ll stand out to your teacher
Actively participating will also help your teacher put a face to a name in what may be a sea of identical students, especially in college courses where there may be 100 or more students in class. You’ll stand out from the crowd and be more memorable. This may be less of a concern in high school courses where there likely aren’t more than 30 people in a class, but participating is still a good way for your teacher to get to know you. Better yet, it may come in handy if you come to the end of the semester with an 89.4% and need a little extra credit to reach an A. When a teacher remembers you’ve been actively involved throughout the course, they’re more likely to go out of their way to assist you. They may also remember you when recommending students for an exciting internship or study abroad opportunity, or they could be a good resource for a letter of recommendation for college admission or a job.
You’ll learn better in general
Participating in class simply helps you learn more effectively. Rather than bottling up your questions, ask them! Chances are someone else has the same question and is too nervous to ask it. Additionally, taking part in class discussions helps you synthesize information and turn it from random bullet points on a page to a memorable and lively idea or concept. We learn better when we teach others, and that’s essentially why class participation matters so much. Being able to talk cohesively about what you’re learning plays a large role in helping you learn it as well as helping those around you learn it too.
How to start participating in class
You may be reading this and thinking, “I want to participate in class, but how do I start?” Perhaps you’re shy, or maybe you just aren’t in the habit of participating. And sometimes it can be harder if nobody participates in class or your class is full of the most talkative people you know. However, there are some simple ways to inch your way toward increased class participation.
1. Come to class prepared
It’s hard to participate when you don’t know what’s going on. How are you supposed to offer up an insightful comment on the day’s reading when you didn’t actually read it? The first step is doing your homework and coming to class prepared to discuss and actively be involved in your own learning. While this may take you a little more time on the front end, it’s bound to help you perform better in class and boost your grades along with increasing your participation in class.
2. Start by answering questions
You may not be at the point where you’re ready to kick-start the discussion, and that’s okay. However, you can start by answering the easy questions that your teacher or professor throws out throughout the class period. These could be questions while reviewing material from the previous class or those intended to make sure you’re paying attention throughout the lecture. A lot of times, these kinds of questions are the best way to get your feet wet and practice speaking in front of the class in brief intervals.
3. Practice active listening
While this can be a nonverbal skill, active listening can be an important part of participating. Active listening refers to sending nonverbal cues that you’re engaged in what the speaker is saying, such as making eye contact, sitting up in class, nodding, and avoiding distractions like your phone. The second half of active listening involves asking relevant questions and summarizing information to show the speaker you’re retaining the information. Even if you aren’t to the point where you’re comfortable participating in a grander way, showing you’re engaged with your body language and asking questions along the way is a great way to start.
While class participation may never be your favorite thing, it’s important to realize it doesn’t have to be a dreaded component of class either. By practicing active listening, answering questions, and pushing yourself to engage more in class, you can reap the benefits of increased class participation such as learning better, being known by your teacher, and maintaining your focus, which all lead to academic success.
To help you make the most of your learning, check out more blogs and articles like this one in our Majors and Academics section.