Participating in Discussions

Class participation is an important component of all Core Humanities courses. Being able to clearly and confidently express your ideas orally is a valuable skill, and it can only be learned through constant practice. Don't pass up the opportunities that these courses provide to improve in this area.

Show up. The first rule of effective participation is to attend class regularly because if you are not in class you cannot participate. Excessive absences will affect your discussion grade, and they also deprive other students of your full commitment to the class, which is another aspect of participation. Remember that you are part of a learning community and that your education is subsidized in part by the state and federal governments-i.e., taxpayers, who include your parents, neighbors, professors and fellow students. Don't let them down. Showing up is the least you can do to demonstrate responsible citizenship.

Make informed and thoughtful contributions. Most professors reward both the quantity and quality of contributions to discussions, so even if you are shy and don't talk a lot, you can still do well if everything you say is brilliant. The types of comments that are most helpful are statements that show that you have done the reading, listened to lectures, listened to your classmates' contributions, and really thought the material through to come up with your own position on the subject.

Be respectful. To some extent, the usefulness of discussions will be affected by how your class works together as a group. If you are a talkative person, try not to monopolize the discussion at the expense of other people in your class. If you are normally quiet, be brave and speak up whenever you have something to say. Everyone must, of course, do the readings each week and come prepared to talk about them in order for discussions to work well. Treat all of your classmates and your discussion leader with respect. If you disagree with someone, do so politely and calmly, without putting the other person down. And if someone disagrees with you, don't take it personally. Use it as an opportunity to examine and sharpen your own arguments and thinking. Try to create a safe, encouraging environment in your class to facilitate healthy discussion and debate.

Avoid disruptive behavior. As in every class, avoid disrespectful or disruptive actions such as arriving late, interrupting people, carrying on side conversations while others are speaking, playing with your cell phone or computer, or wandering in and out of the room without explanation. These types of behaviors are distracting and interfere with the learning process.