Conquering Class Participation!
I’m covering a month’s worth of tutes for a colleague of mine at the moment – and just quietly, it feels fantastic to be teaching this semester (babies are not necessarily a career killer!) – and as part of my prep I read the Subject Guide. To my surprise, I discovered that this subject has a participation mark of 20%. I would not only have to take the roll (and not lose it!) but assess contributions. Which got me thinking; what makes a HD for participation a HD?
Make yourself known
I am terrible with names. Absolutely shocking. Some tutors get around this issue by asking students to make name-cards for each class, others by asking students to self-assess their contribution and include a photocopy of their student card at the end of semester. Whether your tutor adopts these strategies or has a more casual approach to assessing CP, it is important that you make yourself known to your tutor.
HD students are engaged students. Create a positive impression on your tutor and help them connect names to faces – talk to them as you walk into the class, draw them into discussion as they supervise group work, or ask them a question at the class’ conclusion. If you know you’re running late for class/are sick/know you’re going to be away, send your tutor an email, then follow up with a brief comment about it in the next class.
Walk the fine line between contributing to class discussion and being annoying
No one likes a show-off. But equally, no tutor likes to run their class as a mini lecture filled with blank faces (how boring!). Try and walk the fine line between contributing to class discussion, and taking over class discussion. If your tutor is cutting you off – take the hint and take a breather. You don’t need to provide input on every single question and topic. But equally, don’t be too reticent to contribute – law is a competitive profession. Get in there, be confident, and get your voice heard.
Another thing you can do to encourage a HD grade is to set yourself up as the go-to person for class discussion; the person who will always have a go at answering a general question put to the class if no one else will. Tutors appreciate the ‘rescue’ (someone is listening! YAY!), and it creates the impression that you have done your readings (even if you haven’t).
Questions are as good as answers, and tangents are okay too
There are lots of different ways to participate. Asking your tutor a question is just as good as answering question. There is nothing wrong with asking for further clarification, or asking your tutor to repeat an explanation of an important principle.
On a side note, tangents are okay too. Some of the most interesting tutes I attended in my years as an UG were the ones that went sideways from the readings. So as well as Q+A – type participation, think about how the concepts you are studying relate to real life examples, then share with the class.
If all else fails and you don’t have anything to say in class:
Sit up the front and pay attention. Eye contact is the next best thing to active contribution to class discussions.