Classroom participation means class discussions, cooperative learning, debates, role playing, problem based learning, asking questions, responding to the questions, and case studies. Participation is often equated with discussion, which typically involves a lengthy conversation with the whole class. However, participation can also include short exchanges between instructors and students, or within small groups of students. Participation in class is a valuable teaching method to promote a more active involvement in learning. It allows students the opportunity to receive input from others, to apply their knowledge and to develop public speaking skills. In addition, class participation provides a way in which teachers can gain a more accurate idea of how well students understand the concepts being taught.
According to Welty (1989), there are three models of classroom paticipation. The most common participatory clasroom uses what we might call open or whole class discussion, where the teacher poses questions aimed at drawing all class members into the conversation. In another model, the facilitator poses a question, and then calls on students at random to formulate their answers. The next model which is the most important, is known as collaborative learning, in which students work in small groups toward a consensus solution of problems designed by the instructor, and then report their solutions in a plenary session .
There are so many benefits of classroom participation for students in the classroom. Classroom participation can help students to perform better in school. According to Scepansky (2003), higher levels of classroom participation also tended to score slightly higher on personality traits of openness and consciousness. Classsroom participation can send postive signals to students about the kind of learning and thinking such as growth in critical thinking, active learning, development of listening, and speaking skills needed for career success, and the ability to join a disiplined conversation. Cooper (1995), identified that when students see that their participation is being graded regularly and consistently, they adjust their study habits accordingly to be prepared for active participation. Students’ enthusiasm, involvement, and willingness to participate affect the quality of class discussion as an opportunity for learning.
Scholars have also argued convincingly that the exchange of ideas within the classroom, is essential to student learning. Classroom participation is very important for student learning, because the students are not passive vessels in which we pour information. But to teach themselves, they need to question, discuss, share their ideas, and insights with others. Teachers must be able to present their material, effectively manage their classrooms, facilitate maximum student involvement, and ultimately, enhance students’ learning.
Classroom participation has been suggested to facilitate students in developing critical understanding, self-awareness, appreciation for diverse perspectives, and an ability to be proactive. During class participation, students are active, and are responsible for their own learning.
Participation provides an opportunity to the students to learn through their own contribution, and through the contribution of their fellow students. Through discussion, students gain practice in thinking through problems, organizing concepts, formulating arguments, testing their ideas in a public setting, evaluating the evidence for their own and others’ positions, and responding thoroughly to critical and diverse points of view. Ewens (2000) suggests that compared to traditional lecture style teaching, encouraging classroom participation promotes a higher level of reflective thinking, and problem solving, including application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation, and that information learned through discussion, is generally retained better than information learned through lecture. For example, participation has been found to significantly influence critical thinking skills, problem solving skills, and increased student motivation. Students who are active participants have been shown to retain more information after the end of the course, and perceive more satisfaction with the course as opposed to students who do not participate.
The contributor teaches Chemistry at Aga Khan Higher Secondary School, Chitral.