The school calls it ‘Interactive Pedagogy’, but it’s more commonly known by the students as ‘Class Participation, or ‘class part’. Or to some, ‘bane of my life’. But as much as it seems like a bizarre survival-of-the-fittest system designed to make students turn on each other and transform classes into three hours of living hell, there is no reason class part cannot be easy or fun!
To ensure that students take an active hand in their own education and speak up in class, every module has a class participation component. More quantitative modules such as Calculus are based off book-learning and therefore usually weigh class part less- about 10-15%, and you’ll earn these marks through handing in homework or correctly solving questions during class time. But for qualitative modules such as BGS (Business, Government and Society), there may not always be one correct answer, and a wise student will come prepared for a lively debate.
Every professor also runs their class differently, and you can expect that they will have different standards for class participation. Some will be perfectly happy to give you a B just for showing up for class on time, whereas others may require you to answer a certain number of questions during class time.
Unfortunately, the pressure to do well for class part often turns classrooms into warzones. Desperate students fight to speak up as much as possible, scrutinising the arguments of their compatriots for any weakness that might offer a chance at a rebuttal.
This may sound daunting, but there are some things you can do to make class participation easier for yourself. Do your research before bidding for a professor. Consult the curriculum outline on BOSS, and bid wisely! If you know that you’re less comfortable speaking up in class, try to find a professor that gives class participation a lower weightage. Whereas if you’re vocal, confident, and ready for action, bid for a class that will allow you to play to your strengths.
If your professor assigns you readings, read them. Many classes will involve discussion on materials assigned. It can be difficult to read five different papers per class but often, a solid understanding of the main point each author is trying to make will suffice. And if the paper happens to be written by your professor, please read that one cover to cover.
I feel like many people misunderstand what the true purpose of class part is: It exists to foster discussion, promote learning, and has the bonus of hopefully keeping you from watching Netflix during class time. Personally, preparing for it forces me to know my content better and getting other students’ perspectives always add to my own understanding.
Hence, class part is not a competition. It’s not just about how many times you speak up in class, but also the quality of your contribution. The professor (and your classmates) will definitely appreciate one well-reasoned argument or thought-provoking question. Speaking out for the sake of class part, like parroting five answers from the slides, helps no one and will only serve to annoy both your classmates and professor- don’t do this.
Class part is also not the Hunger Games. You are graded individually, not on a bell curve, so there is no need to attack your classmates’ arguments or attempt to be the last argument standing. By all means, raise your alternate viewpoint if you have one.
What class part should be, is natural. Don’t force it. Few things are less conducive to learning than spending half the lesson racking your brains for something to say. Just ask questions when you’re unsure, and if you have a good comment or feel that you might have the answer, pluck up your courage and raise your hand!