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Classroom participation strategies

How to participate in an interactive class

In many of your classes, especially seminars and tutorials, you will be expected not just to listen to your lecturer or tutor, but to do quite a lot of talking as well. You need to be ready to:

  • answer questions from the teacher;
  • answer questions from other students;
  • put questions to the teacher and/or to other students;
  • make comments and give your own opinion:
    • about what the teacher says,
    • about reading for the class,
    • about comments the other students make;
  • summarise a discussion or an argument;
  • report to the whole class on a small-group discussion.

Often a class will be divided into small groups to make the discussion easier, but sometimes you will be expected to speak in front of the whole class.

In some classes you will earn marks for taking an active part in class discussions – or, put another way, in some classes you may get less marks if you do not actively participate.

Why have in-class discussions at all?

In Australian universities lecturers and tutors encourage active participation by their students because:

  • they believe that by discussing, sharing and comparing their ideas and understandings in class, students can:
    • deepen their own understanding of what they are learning, and
    • learn from each other, as well as from the teacher and the textbooks;
  • it helps them to know if:
    • the students understand what is being taught, or if
    • they need further explanation or other help.

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