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Speech is reason's brother
M F Tupper, 1810 - 1889
English lyricist

Classroom learning series

Classroom discussions

Making your voice heard

How to participate and contribute to the discussion of ideas
(in the American Classroom)

At the appropriate time in classroom discussions, don't be afraid to voice your opinion, even if you differ from your professor or classmates. Your opinion can and should be based on the text, other readings, class discussions, library sources, experts in the topic, as well as your own experience.

  • In class, listen carefully to what a professor or other students are saying
  • Mark or make notes of the points you wish to answer or discuss or question
    Remember: a question is as valuable as an opinion in the course of discussion. It shows that you are trying to understand others, as well as be understood!
  • Introduce your contribution with a quick summary of the discussion or point... "As I understand it...."
    Restating the discussion/author's main idea also shows that you are trying to understand, and shows where you are in understanding
    It is very likely that if you have questions or information, others will share them
  • Be certain it is clear to the class and professor when you are summarizing and when you are giving your opinion
  • Try to keep your comments to the point and don't hesitate to refer to your notes: logic is not a speed test...
  • In making an argument, begin with examples from the author or teacher (imitation can be a form of flattery), but generally use your own examples to show your agreement with their point of view. This demonstrates independent thinking which should be valued in an academic setting
  • After you have spoken, it is appropriate to ask for feedback
    if others understand what you have said if others agree/disagree with you.
    Demonstrate openness and dialogue: you should score points with your professor!

Assumptions:

  • A sense of competition underlies the informality of American classrooms
  • First listen and try to understand others' opinions
    Respect theirs, and insist on being respected for yours
  • Focus your contribution on your analysis of the topic, your reaction, your opinion, and finally your openness to understand others.
  • Voicing a well-informed opinion is important to your overall academic evaluation
  • Evaluations are made by professors throughout the semester;
    Final grades are not simply determined by your score on the final exam.

If discussion is based upon readings:

  • Study course lectures, articles, texts
  • Find the author's thesis and restate it in your own words
  • Decide what your opinion or reaction is to the author's thesis

Classroom learning series

Preparing for the classroom | Class "prep"/paying attention |
Classroom discussions | Taking notes in lectures | Influencing teachers |
Interviewing for class projects | Consent form for interviews |
Problem based learning | Using guided notes

Topic material taken from Gail M. Zimmerman, Tips for International Students
Asst. Dean of First-Year Students and Academic Counselor, Dartmouth College
Flash exercise contributed by John Lutz and Professor Brad Hokanson, Interactive Media (DHA 4384) School of Design, University of Minnesota and edited by Joe Landsberger