The Paw Print
Rows upon rows of impassive students stare up at the front of the classroom, expressions vacant and voices silent as their professor stands in front of them, waiting in patient silence for their requested response.
“It’s really frustrating,” says one Adams State professor. “I spend my nights preparing discussions and power points, and when I ask for participation, I get nothing”.
This is the struggle for many college professors nation-wide. While the purpose of a class lecture is for the professor to do most of the talking, there comes a point when the students’ consistent silence becomes a little frustrating. Several discussions in class center on students giving their own ideas and opinions, not blank stares and silence. Many professors even judge their own success on the amount of verbal participation, and the lack of discussion leaves them feeling more than a little frustrated.
It can be hard for professors to deal with silent students.
“It feels like I’m just preaching to dummies,” said another professor, who wished to remain nameless. “I ask for an answer to the question, and I know they have it, but they just blink at me. I spend hours working on discussion topics and I might as well be talking to myself.”
This silent conundrum leaves many wondering why students refuse to speak up in class. Some attribute it to the students truly not knowing the answer. If they do not know, then they feel no need to speak up to find out the correct answer. Some feel anxiety. However, those who do know say that they stay silent because they see no point in participating.
“Most of the kids know the answer,” said Andrea, a sophomore here at Adams State. “I just don’t see the point in saying the obvious.”
While participation can seem boring and pointless to some, involvement in class discussion has a lot of benefits. Participation in class helps add interest to the subject, as well as helping students retain material. In a recent study done by Cambridge University, seventy-two percent of students who participated in a class discussion improved their test scores.
“Usually in discussions, we’re not looking for right or wrong answers,” says Professor Dale Suthermore from UCCS. “We just want to get students thinking about the material. Class is a lot more fun when everyone talks instead of just the professor talking”.
As well as improving test scores, class participation is directly linked to student success in college, another study found. Nearly eighty percent of students who regularly contributed to class at least twice a week went on to do better in classes. More than seventy percent of those directly involved in classes went on to graduate.
“I don’t see why everyone assumes speaking out in class is such a bad thing,” comments Professor Amanda Nelson of Iowa State University. “I think it’s a good thing that several professors, including myself, have made participation a good portion of students’ grades. If nothing else, they’ll be motivated to get a good grade, and maybe through their efforts to pass the class, they’ll actually learn to like being involved.”
So, the next time a professor asks for an answer, or there is a discussion in class, don’t hesitate to raise your hand and get involved. You might just make your professor pretty happy, and you might even gain a little more knowledge along the way.