Academic Support

Participating in Discussion Classes

In many classes, no matter what the discipline or size of the class, there is an expectation that you participate. The professor may even make participation in class a requirement, worth up to 15 or even 20 percent of your class grade. For that reason it is important to know how to participate in class.

Pre-Class Preparation

  • Most of your work for a discussion class should be done before you get to class. Put time into reading, evaluating, and making notes about the information to be discussed.
  • After you have read the assignment, review and make notes on:
    • ideas, concepts, or points of view that you do not understand
    • ideas and points of view with which you disagree
    • strong and weak arguments
  • Go into class with specific ideas and question in mind. This way you will not draw a blank if called upon, you know you have something specific to contribute.

Participating in the Discussion

Know when to get involved in the discussion.

Appropriate Times

  • When you can ask a serious, thoughtful question.
  • When someone asks a question that you can answer.
  • When you have a comment or suggestion that will offer an alternative perspective to the discussion.
  • When you can supply additional information that will correct an error or clarify the topic.
  • When your comment will give a concrete example of something that has been discussed theoretically up to that point.

Inappropriate Times

When the discussion has made you angry, and your comment is likely to be inflammatory or defensive.

  • When your comment will take the class off topic.
  • Participation takes practice. Start now, step-by-step. Set a goal of one question per week in each class; eventually, you will overcome feelings of self-consciousness.
  • You do not have to agree with the professor to get a good grade. In fact, students who disagree with the professor and put thought into their arguments, are likely to get more out of the class, than those who agree with the professor with out questioning.