I am generally a quiet person. This is especially prominent in classes, and as I have a little over one semester left until I’m done with traditional school forever, I will not have to worry about it in the classroom setting any longer. However, I still have to worry about it all the time now and I dislike it greatly.
We know that everyone learns differently: some people learn better by doing, some by reading, some by listening. In the usual classroom setting, there are those that participate because they learn better by doing so. But then there are those—like me—who learn better by listening and/or by solely writing down notes. This can be for a number of reasons, whether it be because writing down all the notes is helpful and they don’t want to miss anything, or speaking in front of the class makes them nervous. In my case, speaking in front of the class makes me nervous and I also need to think about everything I am going to say before I speak. This ability to think before I speak is usually impossible in classes when a professor asks questions somewhat out of nowhere. The flow of conversation also can go so fast that I am unable to prepare my works ahead of time for a later point. When the professor just calls on me and expects me to respond, this gives me no time to think and also makes me flustered and nervous.
I have definitely gotten better with this as the years have gone on. However, many professors tend to require this class participation to the extent that a percentage of our grade is this. I don’t know what they think this will accomplish, but it is certainly prone to bringing the grades down of those who clearly know what is going on, know the answers, yet are well out of their comfort zone when forced to participate in class.
This is especially prominent in one of my classes this semester; this is probably the worst it’s ever been. I have A midterm, which is one-third of the grade; a final, which is one-third of the grade; and participation… which is one-third of the grade. It’s already difficult for everyone to participate enough when there’s over thirty students in the class, but things are especially difficult with the reasons above.
But when the midterm came around, many students received As on the exam, including me. When the test was given back, the professor said that many of the quiet ones had “outed themselves as the smart ones” and that they will need to talk in class more if they want to keep the rest of their grade the same as their test grade. On the other hand, a lot of the students frequently who spoke in class didn’t get very good grades on their midterm, and he said they’d need to study more.
But this begs the question: if all your smart students are getting great grades because they know the material, but they barely participate, and the opposite goes for the other students, maybe your teaching technique of 30+ years needs to be altered greatly.
I know I certainly will not be changing my learning techniques because I still learned the material and excelled while doing so. If I know what I’m doing, do you?