How to Ace Talking in Class

Talking in class is a skill that develops over time, with practice. Trivette Knowles, Senior Philosophy major, shares tips for properly engaging in classroom conversation.

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Talking in class is a skill that develops over time, with practice. Trivette Knowles, Senior Philosophy major, shares tips for properly engaging in classroom conversation.

In the first semester here at The King’s College, there tends to be two extremes of students in many classrooms. There are students who appear to have all the answers, in addition to all the confidence that goes along with raising your hand every five minutes. These students seem to love showing off how well they understood the reading and can sometimes ramble when answering a simple question. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are students who seem to avoid attention at all costs. Sometimes these students can sit through the whole semester without making a single sound, discreetly hiding in the corner to elude the eyes of their professors.

These are exaggerated examples of how becoming comfortable in the King’s classroom is a slow learning process for almost everyone– no matter where you fall on the spectrum of these extremes. Everyone’s process is different.

In my first year I was definitely one of those students who believed they had all the answers. It took until the following year for me to discover how to properly engage with professors in class, but I was able to learn that skill while also not straying too far from my comfort zone.

If you, like me, are one of those students who already loves to be involved in class, I urge you to reflect on your comments/questions and ensure that your contributions to discussion is having a positive effect on the academic atmosphere for all involved– yourself, your professors, and classmates. Their classroom experience is paramount to a healthy learning environment too.

Every professor at King’s seems to value class engagement immensely. That means they like seeing a variety of students involved in each lecture with a mind directed toward learning. Many professors dedicate at least 10% of your overall grade to participation in class discussion. So how do you properly participate in classes?

Learn how to ask questions and contribute to class conversation. You can develop these skills in a variety of ways.

1) When you are unsure of a point in the lecture, raise your hand! It’s important to have clarity, so raise your hand high. You’re encouraged to share your thoughts and seek a better understanding of the material, so do not let question pass unanswered–even if you need to stay after class to ask the professor.

2) If you get too nervous being put on the spot in front of the class, write down your questions in advance. This may feel embarrassing, but it is always better to be clear and concise than incoherent.

3) Meet your professors during office hours. If you are able to establish a relationship with a professor, you will feel ten times more comfortable sharing your questions or opinions with them in front of your peers.

4) On the rare occasion where a professor calls on you and your mind becomes blank, take a breath. Collect your thoughts, and speak your answer with confidence. Feel free to politely ask the professor to repeat the question or to reword the sentence. Your professors are people too, and they do not want to make you feel uncomfortable or embarrassed. If you have no clue what the answer is, be honest, and state calmly that you don’t know. If you have a guess, say it; you represent yourself better as a student when you can at least try to answer, and the classroom is where you have the opportunity to shine.

The dialogue between professors and students can be intimidating at first, but remember, the journey from your initial semester to your final one is shared with your peers who want to learn just as much as you. Learning to participate in classroom conversation is just one aspect of the learning experience you will grow into together.

Trivette Knowles in a Senior Philosophy major in the House of C.S. Lewis at The King’s College in NYC. 

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