Encouraging Participation

Most students may feel shy about participating in discussion, but for students who are also unsure of their English abilities and the expectations in a U.S. classroom, participation can be even more daunting. Discussions move very quickly, and students may be used to different formats for discussion or no discussion at all (See: Culture and Participation).

Students need to know what constitutes good participation and how they can achieve it. Instructors can encourage participation by presenting their discussion expectations for students early on in a course (Does everyone take a turn? Is there a leader? Do people raise their hands? How do we disagree? Is simply saying, “I agree with Joe” enough? Is it okay to interrupt?). Instructors can also create an environment that facilitates successful contributions by providing:

  • Preparation time and materials so students know what to focus on and have a chance to be ready
  • Structure through various discussion formats and roles
  • Language that allows students to interact and successfully shape their contributions