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
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
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
After you have spoken, it is appropriate to ask for feedback
others understand what you have said if others agree/disagree with
Demonstrate openness and dialogue: you should score points with
A sense of competition underlies the informality of American
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
Voicing a well-informed opinion is important to your overall
Evaluations are made by professors throughout the semester;
Final grades are not simply determined by your score on the
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
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