Contributing to Class Discussion

In order to have something useful to say in class discussion, you must have carefully read the material for class. Reasoned intellectual discourse happens in an arena of preparation and critical reflection. Engaging in class discussion is an important way to learn and to practice analysis, and many professors give grades on participation in class discussion.

These are some pointers for contributing constructively to class discussion:

  • Contribute something of your own and advance the discussion. Do not just agree with others.
  • Listen. Others have valuable contributions.
  • Maintain a courteous and respectful demeanor. You do NOT need to degrade another person to make a point.
  • Respectful intellectual disagreement is healthy and broadens the mind.
  • As you read, take notes, use the margins, use stickies. Ask the text questions.
  • Be honest and ask honest questions. Don’t goad people. Beware of the tone of your question.
  • Be courageous. You may be the only one who interprets or approaches a character or issue in the way you do.
  • Have textual evidence or experiential evidence to back up your assertions.
  • Avoid superlatives: always, never, all, only, every, and none.
  • Rarely does a discussion lead to something that is proven. Use gentler terms such as "supports," "suggests," "implies," or "indicates." Once something is seen as proven, the discussion ends.
  • When participating in the discussion, look at the person to whom you are responding. Learn each other’s names and don’t be afraid to make eye contact with all others involved in discussion. Instead of saying “she said," say “Kayle said."
  • Learning to engage in healthy, communicative discussion is a highly transferable skill. You will need to do it in intimate relationships, family, college, church, work, and neighborhood, to name a few other contexts. Take advantage of the opportunity to practice it.