Participation in class has a profound impact on your learning. Balance between these two extremes and find yourself more capable of understanding the information.
Two Extremes of Participation Styles
There are a lot more than two styles when it comes to different styles of classroom attendance. We all know the different kinds, and more than likely you are probably one of them.
- Stare into a certain direction for hours at a time guy. Whether its looking out the window, or just straight at the floor, this guy could beat a plastic doll at a staring contest.
- Super secret texting girl. She is like a Navy Seal of texting tactics. She will have the phone in her lap, where she periodically checks it in case a message from no doubt someone very important happens to come through. Why she thinks that the professor doesn’t see her performing these actions everyday, I’ll never know.
- Miniclip.com man. This guy will bring his laptop to any class, to “take notes,” even if it was a class on how to take notebook paper notes. He will proceed to play the craziest looking game from some website, and he is always amazing at it, no doubt from all of the experience.
- Easily distracted crowd. These are usually those sitting in close proximity to Miniclip Man. Since they can see his screen, they have become a lot more interested in how he is going to shoot the cat from the slingshot into a bucket than whatever the professor is saying.
- Crush on the teacher girl. She’s looking at him, but she hasn’t listened to a word he has said all day.
- Questions at the end of class guy. This guy has spent the whole class time in silence, but now that time is about up and everyone is about to leave, he is just chock full of important questions.
There’s no question that this list could go on and on.
We are not interested in that list, though. We want to zone in on those that actually participate, not just attend. And when it comes to participation, there are two main extremes.
During my time in college I helped mediate conversations with bright high school students from around the area. It was a day of different talks and discussions centered around a particular subject with a philosophical twist to it.
Since I had relatively little experience handling large groups in a teaching setting, my professors gave me some tips to help out. They told me to keep on the lookout for those that will try to dominate the discussion. Whatever comes up, they told me, the student would have a strong opinion on it, and would be able to keep going and going on the topic. I was warned to not let them dominate and get others to speak up as well.
These dominators were intelligent speakers. But often, I noticed, they had a tendency to talk themselves into holes. They would fear their own silence so much that they would keep talking, even at the risk of saying something that contradicts something else they previously said. Once this would happen, they would get very frustrated, because to the discussion dominator, being the right one in the group is very important.
Slow But Sure Thinker
There were also those in the groups that would just sit there. All of the time while others were talking, they would never make a sound. An untrained eye may think that these students are not even there. They are probably thinking about what to eat for lunch, or how much longer this was going to take.
I knew better, though, because, you see, this was the kind of student I was and am. I could tell these students from the actual slackers by their eyes. They are looking directly at the speaker. You can tell they are truly listening to what is being said, and that they are mulling it over in their minds.
These learners, they are just like the dominator, they want to be right. They just go about it in another way. They churn the thoughts around in their mind, going over each thing carefully, comparing, taking it all in. They do this, because in the rare case that they ever do want to speak, they want it to be profound. They want it to contribute something grand to the conversation, so much so that people respect their opinion greatly.
But while the dominator digs himself into holes by continued talking, the slow thinker does the same by always being afraid to talk, because it means risking being wrong.
Both have the fear of being wrong, and both deal with it in ways that do not work towards their advantage.
Balancing Between The Extremes
Each extreme way of participation has its advantages. Just look at the discussion dominator’s.
- Stimulates discussion and ideas.
- Allows for critical analysis of the topic at hand.
- Provides thinking points about the problems.
The Slow Thinkers have their own advantages as well.
- Are able to think extremely deeply on the topic, comparing it to all of the experiences they have come across.
- Are able to collect their thoughts on important discussions before speaking.
- When they do speak, it is usually backed up by many hours of thinking.
Both styles get the job done in their own way.
However, like has been said, both tend to dig themselves into holes. The key to finding balance between the two is overcoming that fear of being wrong and handling it in the correct way.
Overcoming Fear of Being Wrong
For the discussion dominator, the fear of being wrong is taken on by more talk. But this is exactly what needs to stop happening in order for them to get back on the right track. The more they talk, the more they tend to dig dig themselves deeper into a hole. They will begin to accept contradictory claims in order to seem more correct.
In order for the dominator to get on the right path, they need to stop talking and get thinking. Give their mouth a break. The dominator fears being silent, because silence means they could not be understanding what is going on. In order to balance out, they just need to take some time to think things over.
The Slow Thinker, on the other hand, fears speaking, because a wise man only opens his mouth when he has something good to say. Therefore, even when they do have something to contribute to the discussion, this fear of saying something wrong takes over and they either botch up their speech or they don’t even say anything.
In order to balance out, the slow thinker needs to realize that saying something wrong is not the end of the world. You will never be right about everything no matter how much thinking you do. Therefore, it is important to just practice talking. Say something wrong on purpose, even. Whatever you can do to get over that fear of speaking.
For me, it took doing a course over public speaking. Once I actually got used to talking in large groups, with everyone staring at me, I was able to feel more comfortable speaking up in class.
Overall, then, the trick is to find out on which side of the extreme you participate in and act accordingly. Find out what you are afraid of in class. What is holding you back from continued growth?
What techniques have helped you getting over this fear?
Asking these questions will help you balance between the two extremes and be able to focus on what you are studying, not how correct you are.
Have any techniques for coming over fear in the classroom? Want to share your own experience? Leave a comment!