Friday, April 1, 2011

Why don't you participate?

I don't understand something: why won't people speak up? In particular, why don't students speak up in class? Oh, I understand the fear of giving an incorrect response in front of your snickering peers. Really, I do. You want to be certain of your answer so you aren't embarrassed. Sure!

I challenge you for a moment. Think of the instructor or speaker who has just asked for class participation and NO ONE responds. Not even with a wrong answer. The speaker wonders if anyone is listening or cares about the subject they are passionately trying to convey! It is interesting to me that small children are eager to share their thoughts and ideas when prompted, yet as we age, and are ridiculed by our peers, we become silent and passive learners; we are afraid of each other. Not much better, is the situation when one student voices an idea and others jump on the bandwagon with the pressure removed for them to formulate an idea of their own.

Now think of your classmates... the snickering ones, in particular... those who do not share thoughts and ideas, even the incorrect ones, with the class. You see, even an incorrect response to an open question is a teaching moment. If you offer an answer that is not 'spot on,' at least two things happen:
(1) A silent student supposed the same wrong response and would have gone home not knowing the right information if you had kept silent, and
(2) now the speaker (teacher) will correct you out loud, thereby teaching the whole group how to arrive at the correct answer. I would bet you are likely to remember the right answer when you are publicly corrected!

This is learning. We learn by making mistakes and finding out why our answer was not optimal, then fixing it. It is advantageous to make a mistake in the presence of a mentor or instructor (someone who can show us how to avoid the same mistake in the future). So, SPEAK UP EVEN IF YOU ARE UNSURE! Those who ridicule you are, IMHO, relieved that you spoke up with the wrong answer, because possibly they thought it, too, but were afraid of being wrong. Make the effort. Your instructors will appreciate your participation and attempt at showing interest in the subject matter.

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