Letter from the Editor: Speak up in class

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By Julie Pike, Editor-in-Chief

On average, tuition at USM runs between $8,000 to $21,390, depending on whether students are from Maine or out-of-state. Each year, we students dedicate a large amount of money to our education, and so, I think we need to become more actively involved in it.

It saddens me to see students who passively go through their classes without contributing in some manner. In my close to four years at USM, I’ve found that once I become actively involved with the discussion in class, not only do I learn better, but I enjoy the class more. I believe that the more students talk or participate in class, the better they will do, and studies have supported this.

New York University found from a study done with 120 middle school students that 72 percent felt that an increase in classroom participation would lead to improvement in grades. Fifty-six percent of students felt that their knowledge of the class would improve if they participated more.

The Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA), compiled several studies done throughout the last three decades all showing that an increase in student engagement improves student learning and achievements. The studies spanned various subjects and grades. If students in grades K-12 are witnessing these improvements, there’s no saying college students can’t experience these results as well.

We will all be doing ourselves a favor by asking questions, engaging in discussions or talking with peers in class. It doesn’t take much effort, although for some that means pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. But that’s what college is for, helping students grow as a person. Not only will your grades benefit from it, but it will help make the atmosphere of the classroom as a whole more conducive for learning if all the students are actively engaged.

Some of my best classes have been ones that are discussion heavy, such as the First Amendment course I took or the opinion writing class from the communications and media studies department. The time in the classroom feels so much more worthwhile when you can engage in discussions with fellow students. This also helps us learn an essential skill to prepare us for life after college, being able to hold a constructive conversation.

It’s important to know how to listen to others and to respect their opinions and thoughts, but you can also have the opportunity to challenge their opinions. In doing this, you are challenging yourself to prove and support your argument, which when done well, is much harder than you think.

I also think that becoming an active participant in the classroom will help students figure out if they are in the right major or field for them. If you don’t enjoy talking about your course subjects, you may want to think again on your chosen area of study. Some courses may not offer much of an opportunity to become actively engaged, which depends on the professor’s style of teaching and the subject matter. But when possible, look for courses that encourage student participation. I feel lucky to be in the communication and media studies major, where nearly all classes rely on classroom discussions, as I’m sure other departments do as well. I suppose it’s also in the name of my major “communications,” so it makes sense that we are asked to communicate often in class.

If you’re anything like me who often struggles getting through the day without either multiple cups of coffee or a nap, you’ll find your classes much are easier to stay awake and alert in if you participate in classroom discussions by either asking or answering questions. You’re helping your brain stay awake and improving your academic performance.

Going back to what we spend on our education, we are investing this money in our future. So I encourage students to think about their habits in the classroom, are you getting as much out of your courses as you can? Going through class without speaking to anyone is wasting away the money you are spending to be there. Do yourself a favor and try speaking up in class. Watch your interest in the subject matter and grades rise.

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