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Being the Quiet One in a Discussion-Based Class

It is the first day of class and the professor is going through the syllabus. Active participation or discussion in every class counts for a lot towards your grade, which sounds like my nightmare. As a history major, many of my classes are discussion-based, yet I am so quiet and hate speaking up during class. Here are some tips and tricks to dealing with this kind of situation that I have learned while being in my discussion-based classes.

1. Talk with your professor

I cannot emphasize this enough. The professor knows that there are people in the class who do not like to speak up or have a hard time speaking in front of other people. If you take the time in the beginning of the semester to see them and talk about this issue, they will probably be very understanding. They are probably willing to make a compromise with you on this.

This will help your grade in the long-run as well instead of talking to them about this in the middle of the semester when you have already lost points for not participating. Although I do not think you will be able to get out of participation in some form and you will still need to know the information you are talking about in class, it is still beneficial to talk with your professor and lets them know where you are coming from.

2. Come to class with ideas

In my experience, I have to do a lot of reading or homework before I come to class to have a successful discussion. While you are reading, underline or write down important or interesting points you think the information has made. Having these points right in front of you and ready to use will make it easy to remember them instead of having to panic to find something to say. I would not recommend coming with just one point but maybe three or four. I would also suggest trying to summarize what the information was about. Many times summarizing the information shows that you understood the point the information was trying to make.

Do not be afraid to bring up a new point or ask questions, this will probably spark different thinking and new topics of conversation in the class. Talking about something interesting you found in the reading will also bring up different topics and keep the discussion going. Just saying one thing in class will probably be enough for you to earn the participation points in full, especially after you talk with your professor.

3. Have something to help calm your nerves

While I do not personally do this, I know some people like having something in their pocket that they can squeeze or play with. This might help with the nervousness you are feeling or help you be calm while you are speaking. This also might be helpful after you are done speaking when the nervous wave hits and you need to take a couple deep breaths.


While speaking in front of others may not get any easier, it may help mentally to be more prepared and for the professor to know where you are coming from. Having a discussion-based class can be very difficult and you may have to deal with some of the difficult aspects still. But I hope these tips can help and reassure you that even if you are quiet, shy, feeling anxious, etc.,  you can still be successful in a discussion-based class.

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I am the current co-correspondent of the University of Wyoming! I spend my time reading lots of historical information, cooking, going out with my friends, and eating ice cream. I am a history major and my plans are to attend grad school to be a public librarian!
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