Breaking the silence: Why class participation is so important

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Ariana Mueller

Hello readers! My name is Ariana Mueller and I’m currently a student at UW-Stevens Point majoring in business administration in the Sentry School of Business and Economics. My goal during my time here is to be able to assist students in achieving their academic and life goals.

I work as a peer ambassador in the Anderson Classroom to Career Center, as well as hold a position in our Women in Business Club as a secretary. In my off time I play Overwatch 2 with my Esports team, craft and bake desserts. I wish you the best of luck with your endeavors and hope the articles serve you well.

Now, for my first official blog …

In my freshman year of college, I was terrified. There were copious amounts of things I had never experienced before and I didn’t know where to begin. In a sea of new people, it’s difficult to get yourself oriented in the right direction, especially where you spend most of your time, the classroom. As we take the leap to further our education, it’s important to understand how to optimize our learning to get the most out of our education, and money. This is where participating in courses truly comes into play. If you’re anything like I was when beginning your college career, even the thought of raising your hand in class is terrifying, let alone speaking up. The first step to participating in class is to debunk the thoughts that inhibit you from doing so.

Myth #1: My question/response will be perceived as dumb by my peers.

This myth was by far something that kept me back from participating in discussions, answering questions, or reaching out to my peers. The reality is that we’re all students, we’re all here to learn and we’re all going to be at different points in our collegiate careers, with that being said, no one is going to think you’re dumb for speaking in class, in fact, you might just find you’re helping your peers learn. There’s a good chance if you’re confused or questioning something in the course, someone else is as well. Sometimes the way the material is explained by a professor doesn’t come off as intended and can become confusing, by asking questions you can help yourself and those around you further clarify the material.

Myth #2: I’m going to interrupt the class.

Depending on when you speak up in class, this one can be true. If this is something that worries you, try to find a time when the professor is taking a break from speaking to raise your hand, or when they take time to ask if anyone has questions. Planning when you are going to speak in class can help alleviate some anxiety, and help reduce the fear of interrupting.

Myth #3: I don’t have anything valuable to contribute.

It’s essential to understand that any contribution to a class discussion is valuable. Whether it provokes a thought for someone else, allows the professor to expand on a point not previously made, or just reiterates material, your question/comment is an important one.

Myth #4: I’m too tired to participate.

I feel like “I’m tired” is my college motto. Finding a way to add a bit of extra motivation,
especially in early morning courses, can help get you out of that mindset and ready to learn. Try
getting yourself a little pick-me-up before class, and if you don’t have time for that (or just want
to stay in bed as long as possible), grab yourself a treat after you participate. Having this reward
system will give you motivation to participate in class and you also get a treat out of it, what
could be better?

Myth #5: My answer will be wrong.

This one kind of ties in with our first myth, but if you’re wrong wouldn’t it be better to know now, rather than getting it wrong on a test? If the answer is wrong, or even right, it will encourage other students to participate and provide room for extended learning or further clarification on the topic at hand.

Now that we’ve busted down the myths, we can dive deeper into the strategies that will help you improve your participation. These are the tips I’ve found to be personally helpful in battling anxiety related to in-class involvement.

Tip #1: Come to class prepared.

This one is by far the biggest tip that will help you to succeed and will assist you in your course as a whole. It’s important to do the readings and coursework prior to your class in order for you to get the most out of class time. This will also allow you to ask questions if you are confused about an assignment or portion of the reading, as well as give insightful answers or contributions to the conversations. Coming to class with knowledge of the material is a large part of participating in class, and will help you to succeed overall in the course.

Tip #2: Get to know your professor during their office hours.

Utilizing office hours can be a huge part of college, and it only took me until junior year to figure it out. Professors set up office hours because they want to help you, and getting to know them during this time can help to further your learning goals. Not only is this time designated for you, but it can also help you become more comfortable in the classroom setting. By being comfortable in your classroom, you are more likely to want to participate in questions and discussions, which will lead you to new insights into your learning material. Not only does this tip work for participation in the classroom, but it will get you acquainted with the professors on campus who can become useful resources for letters of recommendation, course confusion, and much more in your collegiate career.

Tip #3: Get to know your classmates.

It’s a lot easier to be comfortable in a course when you know a few people in it, but making new friends can be a daunting task. For any courses where I find myself in this situation, I try to get to class early and talk to the people around me about activities over the winter/summer break or even course material. These two topics are both easy conversation starters that may lead you to common ground. This tip is especially important within major courses. Once you get deeper into your major, you may find that you’re in courses with a lot of the same people. Making these connections early on not only integrates you into a community of your peers, but will also assist in the development of networking skills.


Participating in class can be a difficult yet rewarding task. I strongly encourage you to try out these tips and tricks to see if they work for you. My parting advice is to start small, answer easy questions asked by the professor, and work your way up from there.

Ariana Mueller is a business administration student in the Sentry School of Business and Economics at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Originally from Wausau, Wis., Ariana serves as a peer adviser in the Anderson Classroom to Career Center.