When participation is part of your grade

In teachers on September 17, 2008 at 3:13 am
Photo by hokkey (thank you!)

Photo by hokkey (thank you!)

Geoff R., at the Gearfire blog, has a useful post on the perfect time to study for tests.

He includes some great tips, but I’d love to talk particularly about #2 on his list: “Active Participation in Class.” The more you participate in class discussions, Geoff says, the better you might do in the class. It is true. Being actively involved in class can help you remember the experience, leading to better memory the day of the test. Still, statements like this can create terror for many international students. The sad truth is that a common practice in American classrooms includes teachers grading students for participation. The more you talk in class, the better.

I understand why teachers do this. We love it when students join in on the class, ask questions, start conversations. Also, we like to reward students who are actively working in class. To be honest, though, I think grading for participation (if we’re just talking about talking in class) is an unfair practice. Not everyone is comfortable speaking in front of large groups — and it’s especially difficult for international students. I was a shy student myself, and it was difficult for me to get the courage to speak up in class — even in my native language.

So what can you do, if you have a teacher who grades with participation? Here are a few ideas:

1) Try talking with your teacher at the beginning of the semester. Tell her that you want to participate but that it’s difficult for you as an international student. Ask her for tips on getting the courage to speak in class or for other ways that you might participate. This conversation alone may boost your participation grade, since you’re showing initiative.

2) If your teacher has any online components for the class, participate in online discussions actively.

3) Come to class with a comment or question prepared that you might ask about the day’s reading or topic. When the teacher asks, “So what did you think of the reading?” jump in with your prepared question or statement. This way, you don’t have to think on your feet.

4) If there’s absolutely no way around the large group discussion, try getting a group of students together and trying to support one another in class participation. Help each other prepare questions or topics ahead of time to raise during class. Rescue each other if the moment gets too tense. A little friendly support can go a long way to making discussion easier!


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