I was wondering (if it is applicable to any of you) how you view student participation in regards to individual output during seminars? As a student, I prefer to mull out my own quandaries concerning the subject internally, by myself. In this regard, I prefer to observe discussions rather than partake. I've noticed however that most lecturers then view me as averse to doing work, as if my silence correlates to turning up having not studied, when truthfully, I put in as much time as everyone else. I have no problem talking within a group, there's no deep rooted anxiety or causality to the matter. It's simply a personal preference, yet it seems to have cast me in a light unfavourable to what academia expects of me. I do understand how it must look from the perspective of a teacher though. Sorry for the histrionics.
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You mention in post 5 that there "is no individual input, just a vague representation of what various academics have said" but I would argue that you and your classmates are expected to bring your own insights and observations to a class discussion. If you are suggesting that all any of the students do is research the topic and report that in class, then your premise might be the case, but even that could have value if it sparks a fresh conversation about the topic. Your professors need to create discussion situations that are more satisfying to your intellectual needs. My students like Socratic seminars where half the class is discussing the topic and the other half is observing the discussion and taking note of the content as well as the group's discussion behavior. Half way through the class the observer group share their observation and then everyone reverses rolls. They like that it is a conversation, not a teacher-led question/answer session disguised as a discussion.
Do your lecturers really give you a grade based on your participation in discussiong, or do you just feel that they have a general bias against you because you don't participate? I've always been a quiet student who didn't particularly enjoy participating, but I tried to because I felt I learned a lot more from it. With that said, I never felt that my professors held it against me when I chose not to participate. More than anything, I felt self-conscious among my peers when they were all talking and I was the only one who wasn't; but that's a different issue.
As a teacher, I don't penalize my students in any way for not particpating in discussions. Most students will learn better as a side effect if they do participate, so I encourage it, but ultimately their grade is based on assessments. I'm speaking as a high school teacher, though, so obviously the environment is different from what you are referring to.
I agree with pohnpei that ultimately it is the writing that counts. As a teacher, I would ideally like almost everyone to participate in class discussion. (I say "almost everyone," because occasionally those who talk the most have the least to contribute.) I realize, however, that some of the most thoughtful students are sometimes the most quiet. I try to do what I can to get them to talk, but, if they don't want to talk, I don't force them. I had such a student this past term; he never said a word, but his writing was superb. He received a strong "A."
Once I had such a student. He was obviously intelligent, had obviously read, and wrote beautifully, yet he never spoke. To tease him one day, when we were discussing Paradise Lost I suddenly asked him, "what would you YOU do if YOU were in hell?" Without missing a beat, he promptly replied, "Stop, drop, and roll." I have never forgotten that moment!
I find myself being one who does take an active part in discussions. I found early in my academic career that simply making the teacher happy will get me the grades that I desire. While I do not always agree with what is being said, my participation shows that I am paying attention and can form relevant thoughts. While, on the inside, I am contemplating many different things regarding the discussion (that I do not say aloud), sometimes one so simply must acquiesce to the expectations of the teacher.
Basically, what is going on in my head is much more developed than what is coming out of my mouth. I just filter in order to make the class bearable and the teacher happy.
As pohnpei points out, your written thoughts should be worth more than the monotonous conversation that students are sometimes expected to take part in.
I'm on both sides of this, as I'm a high school teacher and a PhD student. Honestly, my disposition is more geared toward being quiet, if not silent, in seminars, but I understand as a teacher that if everyone took that approach, then it wouldn't be much of a seminar. I also find that I get much more out of discussions if I take part in them, and get more out of the readings the discussions are based on, as I'm forced to refer back to them to raise points or answer questions. Don't talk just to get the participation grade, though. A good approach is to make a few bullet pointed notes that include issues you'd like to raise in discussion, then do so at an appropriate time.
I doubt that most of us on here are in the position where we get to teach seminars since those tend to be reserved for (at the least) upperclass students in college. However, my attitude has been (when I got to teach seminars in an earlier life) that it is the student's written output that matters most. I realize that there are students who simply are not at their best in a seminar situation.
As for your situation, what does the syllabus say? Are you graded on participation? If so, then I fear that it's like any other situation where you have to take the bad with the good in the endeavor you've chosen for yourself.
You've answered your own questions in your closing - the perspective of the teacher or lecturer is different from your own. We are not mind readers; we confirm that our students are hearing and understanding the content of our discussions through the feedback they provide, and the most immediate form possible for that input is in-class oral reaction to questions or participation in debates. We recognize that there are different styles of learning and varied preferences and comfort levels regarding speaking out, but you need to recognize our position.
Continued silence on your part is probably going to continue to not be well received. You can explain your feelings to your instructors, but they're still going to contend that seminars are intended for two-way communication.
I understand what you're saying, though within your response lays my main aversion. The reason I haven't voiced how I feel to my current lecturers, is that from past experience they seem to view their authoritarianism as infallible. There's no room for questioning or simple humility. An apparent stare of pity is given and then the conversation comes to a close. Yet, surely there must be some form of leeway concerning those who’d rather not debate? I am not abject to it, it just all seems very pedantic and dishonest to me. There's no individual input, just a vague representation of what various academics have said. Maybe I should've worked in a factory instead. Thanks for responding anyway.
I don't have a participation mark, is that common in America? I study in England where debating is akin to getting drunk and having numerous bouts of Chlamydia.
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