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10 Reasons It's a Good Idea to Participate in Class

If you regularly answer questions and join conversations in class, well done! For those of you who don't participate, whether due to anxiety or apathy, we have some suggestions for you.

By Sarah Wright

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1. Participating will probably boost your grade.

Whether it's explicitly stated or not, most professors will factor your class participation into your final assessment. Don't miss out on easy points by sitting in a stupor.

2. Your instructor will be able to put a name to a face.

In addition to helping your grade, joining in class discussions can help your professors connect your name to your person. This can be particularly important if you're interested in working with this professor in the future. Plus, he or she might be able to give you a break if you mess up on a test question pertaining to a concept that you demonstrated understanding of in class.

3. You'll know if you're wrong - fast.

Depending on the style of class you're in, you might spend a lot of time listening to fellow students say things that aren't exactly in line with your interpretation of the material. They could also just be plain wrong. Sure, that's a little embarrassing, but the process of learning involves trial and error. You can't be right about everything the first time. Participating in class can help you learn more about what you think, and why - and can help you get at a better (or more correct) hold of the subject matter.

4. Exchanging ideas is a good way to learn.

If someone says something in class that you disagree with, you should speak up (politely, of course). Engaging in some academic discourse can help elucidate concepts in a way that staying inside your own head never could.

5. It's your money. Don't waste it.

The bottom line is that you (or someone close to you) are paying to sit in a classroom. If you want to be bored, that's your loss. It's also disrespectful to the professor and the other students, particularly if you're actively doing something else, like texting or fooling around on the Internet. If you work efficiently, you'll have plenty of free time to screw around, and part of working efficiently is actually paying attention in class.

6. Thinking is good.

Having something useful to say in class requires thought. This might be a turnoff for lazier students, but if you actually care about learning something, you should speak up. The thought process it takes to respond to something your teacher says will help you think more deeply and completely about the material at hand.

7. Shyness isn't going to help you succeed.

Crippling social anxiety can be a major barrier to class participation. But shyness isn't going to help you succeed out of school any more than it will in school. You'll be unlikely to get promotions at work, for instance, if you're a shrinking violet. So get in the practice of overcoming your fears now.

8. Bored? Say something.

If you think sitting is class is boring, try participating. Speaking up and engaging in conversation or answering questions is a great way to go from sitting there doing basically nothing to actually actively contributing to your education.

9. Save yourself some time: ask a question.

Sometimes, certain concepts are totally outside of our grasp, no matter how much time we spend reviewing and studying them on our own. Asking questions in class can save a lot of time and effort trying to figure stuff out. You might find that you've been approaching the problem wrong all along.

10. Impress your fellow students.

For some, nothing can serve as sufficient motivation to participate in class. Either anxiety or apathy is strong enough to keep mouths shut for an entire semester. If the above reasons aren't sufficient motivation (and if they aren't, you might want to rethink why you're in college in the first place), consider the fact that adding a cogent and pithy remark in class can impress your classmates. If we can't appeal to your brain, at least we can appeal to your ego, right?

If your professor knows you well, he or she might be more willing to change a grade for you if you ask.

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