The article “Giving Reluctant Students a Voice” (R. Redekopp & E. Bourbonniere) reinforced many ideas I already had regarding student participation. While student teaching, I quickly learned that every class will have its guaranteed participants – for better or for worse. You can always count on these students to ask and answer questions during discussions. This does always indicate, however, the students’ understanding of the topic. In fact, through exit slips, writing prompts, and other writing assignments, there would be students who I knew could add so much to the class but would not, for whatever reason.
Throughout my high school and college careers, there were a few professors who were already trying to generate discussion in different ways outside of the classroom. The technology for this was still somewhat limited, with the teachers relying mostly on Blackboard’s discussion board – a bulky and nonintuitive device for questioning and responding. With all the tools available for online discussion these days, teachers should make use of them to give each student a chance to participate. Like the article mentions, some of the least active students can give some of the best insights.
Even so, I think it still important to encourage in-class, oral discussion. I believe students should practice voicing their opinions in a clear, concise way. They should also be able to answer questions, something they will need to do in college and job interviews. The challenge, then, is to create an environment where students feel comfortable speaking up and are respectful of others.