Why Class Participation is So Important

I’m sure you’ve all had a course where the professor gives you a grade based on your class participation. This may be scary, especially as a first-year, but as you take more classes you’ll realize how vital it is to contribute to class discussions. Even for introverts (like myself), participating is easier than it seems. Here are some top reasons why you should say something.

You’re paying to participate:

A perk of private liberal arts colleges like Hamline is the class size. You are paying a large sum of money to sit in a class with the opportunity to engage directly with other students and the professor. Schools with enormous class sizes don’t provide as many chances to have discussions with your fellow students. When you can talk to each other, you can learn new things, hear new perspectives, and challenge your own opinions. Don’t miss out on this chance.

When you don’t participate, you’re showing you don’t care:

Obviously, if you’re sick one day and can’t talk, that’s fine. But from the perspective of the rest of the class and the professor, consistently not talking or ignoring other students makes it seem like you don’t care about the topic. This can be really problematic when the topic is something like gender and racial issues (or many more), because remaining silent only contributes to the rigid structures that have refused to deal with these issues in the past. You don’t have to be 100% right about something or even agree with your classmates; just don’t stare off into the distance when someone else is sharing a personal story about the discrimination they face. They’ll notice.

It’s your chance to flesh out your ideas:

Discussions can be super beneficial because they’re less intense and detail-oriented than papers or tests. Yes, your professor may give you a grade on your contributions, but they are not grading you on your sentence structure or references. Use this time to talk through your ideas with other students, and hear their feedback. Hearing other students’ experiences can expand the scope of your upcoming paper. It’s also a great time to ask questions! Participating can mean admitting your confusion and asking your peers and professor for help.

Finally, remember that participation includes listening. One of the best things you can do is to give someone your full attention when they speak. Your professor and classmates will notice whether or not you are listening to what they have to say.

Of course, there are obvious disclaimers to all of this. If your professor tends to ridicule or yell at students when they don’t like an answer, or isn’t leading thought-provoking or relevant discussions, this article may not apply to you. Please reach out to these professors or their superiors if you have concerns about participating in class.