Class participation varies on students


Photo by Mikaela Acton

Emily Oba

[dropcap style=”simple” size=”4″]A[/dropcap] teacher’s eyes scan the room and fall on a student trying her best to avoid any eye contact. “Hey, Nichole, can you answer my question?” For junior Nichole Iagorashvili, this is the exact situation she hates.
“I don’t not like raising my hand [because] I just never know what to say,” Iagorashvili said. “I like to be sure that I know the correct answer to a question before I raise my hand, so I don’t embarrass myself for guessing the answer wildly incorrect.”
The nervousness Iagorashvili feels is the opposite for junior Beni Adelstein. She says she’ll raise her hand depending on what the class is and if she’s comfortable with the subject she is working on.
“I answer [questions] to make sure I understand the material and to participate in class,” Adelstein said. “Sometimes I am nervous because I don’t want to be wrong when answering questions, but if I am, I usually learn from my misunderstanding.”
Class participation is essential to Spanish teacher Krisleen Arthur. She uses homework as a participation and learning tool and therefore has it as 10 percent of students’ term grades.
“I do not grade homework on accuracy because it is the first attempt to practice the concept.  Accuracy comes after practice,” Arthur said. “So, when broken down, my homework is about effort and completion and participation in the process of learning. There is a strong link between kids who are doing their work and those who are learning.”
In Arthur’s Spanish classes, in addition to a homework point column, she gives points to students who show effort in several activities. Sometimes students hesitate from participating, like Iagorashvili, therefore, sometimes classes can result in awkward silences when no one volunteers to answer a teacher’s question.
To combat these silences, Iagorashvili said her Advanced Placement (AP) U.S. history teacher, Chris Fischer, has a “deck of destiny,” where he pulls out cards with students’ names on them and asks for response. While she is not a fan of the deck, Iagorashvili says it’s part of the learning experience to occasionally be forced out of one’s comfort zone, and it also serves as an incentive to learn the material.
“Mr. Fischer uses his ‘deck of destiny’ to call on random people when no one is contributing to the discussion. You can always see people scrambling for their notes when he pulls it out, and again, it forces you to learn the topic,” Iagorashvili said. “However, some teachers who call on students ‘randomly’ really have a set number of people who they think will know the answer, and they call on those students specifically. This isn’t fair, as the people who don’t want to talk should all have an equal chance of being chosen.”
When teachers don’t have students who will raise their hands, Adelstein says it can seem like they are not engaged or understand the content being covered in class.
Students don’t raise their hand because they are uncomfortable speaking in front a large group of people, afraid of being wrong or because they do not understand the material well enough to answer the questions being asked,” Adelstein said.
Despite students feeling uncomfortable, Arthur finds practice, learning and expression in foreign language learning as invaluable.
“If I can’t get kids to practice, there really isn’t going to be learning unless they are a native speaker,” Arthur said. “I can’t speak knowledgeably about other courses or the importance of practice [and] homework. Due to the fact that math is very similar to language, I expect the importance of practice in math is as significant.”
Do you ever raise your hand in class? Tell us in the comments below.