If you are one of the students who speaks out frequently, you may need to check the impulse (sometimes) so that other students have more opportunity to speak. For students who are quieter in class, it may be time to consider how you can speak up and participate a little more. Why, you ask?
Speaking up in class, at least occasionally, is important two particular reasons:
- Practically speaking, it may impact your grade. Like it or not, many professors include a "participation grade" in their syllabus and will keep track of which students speak in class and how often. This may not be fun for you, and may even make you uncomfortable, but it is worth considering if you want a high grade in a class.
- Philosophically speaking, participating vocally in class enriches both you and your fellow students. Every student brings a unique perspective and set of experiences to the classroom. We are all richer when the classroom where a wide diversity of voices are heard.
- Start with a question. If you aren't sure about something, need clarification, or if a lecture brings up a question you've considered before, start with that. Asking questions is a valuable way to improve your own understanding of class material and everyone else's. You can be absolutely certain that if there is something you don't understand in class, there is at least one other person in the room who is just as confused as you are.
- If you're nervous about what to say, write it down. You can organize your thoughts and refine your comment by taking just a few minutes to think through what you're about to say. This will give you confidence and ensure that you make your point or ask your question clearly.
- Realize that no one else is thinking about you nearly as much as you are thinking about you. It is stereotypical to say this, but no one cares. The reality is that your classmates aren't going to leave the room and call their friends to gossip about the question you asked during lecture. I promise.
- Consider your question or comment to be a public service. As I said, the classroom is richer and more interesting when more students, and especially a wider diversity of students, feel comfortable speaking up and asking questions. No one has the exact same thoughts or ideas that you do, and we are all better served when we hear from unique perspectives in the classroom.
- Come to class prepared. This is along the same lines as the advice to write down your question in advance. Professors assign readings and homework for a reason, and if you take notes as you're reading then ask a question in class, you will automatically be elevated to favorite-student status. Doing this will also reduce the fear you might have of looking bad when you speak up. You KNOW you did the work, you read, you thought it through.