Class Participation – Are You Doing it Right?

Over one hundred RC folks crowded into the Aldrich classroom last Wednesday afternoon to attend the WSA RC Class Participation Seminar hosted by Professor Frances Frei. Billed as a WSA event, the crowd was understandably predominantly of the fairer sex although there were a few courageous male souls who braved our stares and snuck in quietly.

Disarmingly frank and immensely patient throughout the hour long question and answer session, Professor Frei described the actual process in which professors record and grade comments in great comforting detail, while debunking several RC myths on class participation with much wit and humor. We heard much again about the large face charts in our professors’ offices, the phenomenal abilities of our professors to re-enact the entire discussion within the classroom in the comfort of their private offices, the extensive use of spreadsheets et al to track our participation rate, all tools to ensure each and every one of our comments receives due credit. What is less well-known however, is the revelation that class participation is much more than just the comments you make in class; disruptions like walking into class late, or disruptions while a section mate is speaking all count toward negative class participation. Perhaps the best advice of the entire session was given right at the beginning of the session, when Professor Frei stressed the importance of having a well-rested mind, which in her opinion, was more important than all the extensive case preparation you could do.

For those who missed the session, here is a much abridged summary of the top tips for class participation – good luck!

1. Get enough sleep as you need to be fully alert to participate in the discussion

2. Never spend more than two hours preparing each case since the marginal value is not worth the effort

3. Start and end your case preparation with a review of the high- level concepts, and do not get lost in the numbers

4. Consider cold calls as gifts for class participation

5. Always make an attempt to answer the cold call/ question, even if you do not have the full answer; never pass on a cold call.

6. Raise your hand higher and be visible! Your professor cannot call on you if he does not see you

7. Look interested and engaged in the discussion, even when you are not speaking

8. Do not be afraid of giving a wrong answer. You will still get credit for good class participation if your answer helped move the class learning along

9. Comments from the experts on their area of expertise do not always receive additional credit; if you do share your experience, be sure to link the point to the case at hand.

10. And finally, a good comment is…. .one which pushes the discussion along and is getting picked up by others in the section as a starting point for their comments.