A certain percentage of each and every class is made up of two types of people:
1) The group that, no doubt, have been out the night before and like to use the class like it’s a social gathering. They spend 90% of the class chatting amongst themselves and bugging every other student there by supplying an almost constant low murmur from the back of the room.
2) The pair that have a question for everything. They interrupt the teacher constantly, often asking questions on material that hasn’t even been explained yet, normally as a way of trying to impress, or maybe they just like being annoying.
Participation in a classroom or lecture hall is essential if you would like a hope in hells chance of doing well in your course. Not only is it good feedback for a professor to let him know that you’re progressing, but it also helps to cement fundamental points in your mind, before the class is even over.
Finding the perfect amount of participation, however, can be a tricky business. So here are some tips to help you along:
- Before even stepping into the classroom, read up on the topic to get a general idea of the points that will be covered. Not only does this prevent you from asking stupid questions (By “stupid” I mean those questions on simple matters that have been explained in previous classes ten times over!) but it also means that you come to the lecture already knowing what sections of the topic are difficult for you and what you need to be asking about.
- Don’t sit too far away. It’s hard to hear from the back and you don’t want to be spending half the class asking the teacher to repeat themselves.
- Don’t jump the gun. Wait until the teacher has finished an explanation before asking a question. If you give them time to finish their sentence, they might explain the part that’s phasing you without being prompted.
- Don’t worry about getting something wrong. The worst that could happen is you all have a bit of a giggle because you’ve said something mildly funny. Everyone learns from their mistakes.
- Don’t claim all of the attention. If you have a genuine doubt about something then it’s perfectly okay to ask the question, but if you’re just talking for the sake of it, save your breath. Not everyone will like the sound of your voice as much as you.
At the end of the day, whether your school/university is public or private, someone is paying for you to be there and learn, so why not make the most of the resources being handed to you?
So get involved and ask questions! Don’t be daydreaming or nattering in class, because you’ll miss vital information. But please don’t go to the other extreme and hog the entire class! Find that perfect balance.