Is Class Participation Only for Extroverts?

Written by: Mandy Ngoh

The views expressed in this article are those of the author’s and are not representative of the views of U-Insight.

Once viewed as a personality deficiency, introversion has taken quite a turn in recent years. Now synonymous with being intelligent, drama-free and a cat-lover, many people identify as introverts.

Stewing public speaking and spotlight in a pot, class participation might be one of the worst nightmares for introverts. They find themselves coerced into mumbling phrases in front of a group of people, accompanied by heart palpitations and sweaty palms. After saying what has to be said, they might spend hours replaying that dreaded moment in their minds, obsessing endlessly over minute details while everyone else seems to be free from these worries.

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If the introvert does not receive the expected validation, he’ll resolve to never publicly humiliate himself again. The experience throws the introvert into an endless depth of retrospection, leaving him with many self-deprecating thoughts – what did I say wrong? Why can’t I be like the rest? Why can’t I speak up confidently?

Before I continue, I’d like to clarify that I am not speaking for those who are battling psychological issues, such as battling social anxiety. Rather, I’m referring to those who use introversion as an excuse because they lack the courage to step out of their comfort zone. Don’t get me wrong – I’m an introvert myself. And I believe it’s high time for us to ditch this self-imposed inhibition.

Even if they mask it better, extroverts (dichotomously speaking) do experience feelings of nervousness from public speaking, too; self-doubt is a universal affliction and part of human nature. Simply because someone opts to take the risk of expressing themselves in class doesn’t automatically make them an extrovert. There are, of course, specific trends and explanations for behaviour differences at the biological level that I will not contest. Instead, we should work on what we can control – in this case, moving away from using introversion as an excuse to rationalise our lack of class participation.

Studying in a literature course myself, I often find myself faced with surrounded by deafening silence in class when no one is willing to break the ice and answer the professor’s question. Things get worse when class participation is not included in the assessment. Sometimes, it seems as though the professor is speaking to the wall! Many people have complained that our education system is heavily reliant on rote and passive learning, but when given the opportunity to change things, not many are willing to take the initiative.

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Class participation actually can make and break someone’s learning experience in class and the mere presence of participation marks shouldn’t be your only incentive or reason for speaking up in class. You speak up because you, just like your classmates, are here to learn and expand your knowledge. Taking the leap of faith and offering constructive comments is one way that you can both consolidate and correct your understanding of content.

What absolutely blows my mind is when people tell me that students only participate in class because they want to be teacher’s pets or get more participation points. It reflects the naysayers’ selves more than anything. Most tutorials are discussion-based, we need more opinions, more questions and more fuel to add to the fire for growth.

You never know how much your answers can influence your classmates. Perhaps someone is waiting for you to say your thoughts for they are thinking about the same thing. We can never rely on ourselves to have perfect answers all the time. In fact, academic discussions may sometimes be more about embracing diverse perspectives in considering an issue, than about a ‘correct’, rigid way of thinking.

Since the year has just begun, consider making it part of your New Year’s Resolutions to step out of your comfort zone. Speak up in class. If lectures seem daunting, start with tutorial rooms. Practice makes perfect and that anxiety will slowly fade away with practice. We can never rely on ourselves to have perfect answers all the time. Conquer those who laugh at you but have never dared to express their opinions. Give up on external validation because that can’t sustain you. Our country is practical to a fault. The greatest tragedy is that we need to incentivize students to make them speak up in class. 

Photo by Artem Maltsev on Unsplash

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Featured image credit: Photo by Antenna on Unsplash