Generating participation in a large class discussion is fraught with teaching land mines. We can call on people who raise their hands, but too often it is always the same people. We can ask to hear from someone else and risk offending those who have been volunteering, so that there are even fewer hands. We can call on people randomly and risk embarrassing those who aren’t prepared or don’t understand. Maybe that will motivate them to prepare, or it may just be reflected in our teaching evaluations. I’d like to share an exercise that broadens class participation and offers a way around these potential risks.
HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS
encouraging student participation
If you teach a skills-based course and wonder how online discussion can enhance the learning experience, consider Roger Gee’s approach to the use of online discussions in his introduction to accounting course.
We are used to discussing topics with our colleagues. They know the material, have already thought a lot about it, and can answer questions quickly. We want conversations in class to clip along at a similar pace—there’s always lots of material the class needs to get through.
Sometimes it’s good to revisit an instructional standby. Discussion is a staple in most teachers’ repertoire of strategies, but it frequently disappoints. So few students are willing to participate and they tend to be the same ones. The students who do contribute often do so tentatively, blandly, and pretty much without anything that sounds like interest or conviction. On some days it’s just easier to present the material.
Students find discussions disillusioning just about as often as faculty do. In the analysis referenced below, students objected when a few fellow classmates dominated the discussion; when the discussion wandered off topic, making it difficult to ascertain main points; and when students participated just for the sake of participating.
A common phrase uttered during the first day of class is: “You will be graded on class participation.” As instructors we know what we expect. But what exactly do our students think we mean by that statement? The longer I’ve taught the more I’ve come to realize that students may not really know.
If you’re interested in approaches that encourage students to participate in class and develop their public-speaking skills, as well as techniques that help you learn student names, then my “daily experts” strategy may be of use to you.
Most instructors attempt to encourage class participation by making it part of the overall grade. But evaluating individual contributions and promoting a substantive, intriguing discussion
Getting students to participate in class is one of those perplexing instructional problems we all face, particularly when teaching undergraduate classes. Are there significant differences in the graduate classroom?
It’s important at the beginning of a course for students and their instructor to find out about each other. This exchange of information helps to create classroom climates of respect and fosters a spirit of exchange that can encourage students to ask questions, make comments, and otherwise participate in dialogue throughout the course.