• Natasha

Surviving Assessable Class Participation


Is there someone in your class who perfectly answers every question before your tutor even finishes asking it? Chances are you hate that guy. Class participation doesn’t have to be painful. It’s supposed to be easy marks.

Changing a few habits and employing some of these tips will help you feel more confident...

Before Class

1. Look through your subject outline and find the marking criteria for class participation so you can get a feel for what is expected of you.

2. Preparation is vital, so don’t neglect your readings! Making case notes is a great way to ensure you understand what you’re reading and it will also help your brain retain more information. Read our tips for case note writing here.

3. Ever come to class and completely forget which cases you read and what issues you wanted to raise? Create a quick class reference sheet. It should be 2 A4 pages at most. When you are reading, try to actively engage with the ideas. If you have any strong opinions or ideas then note them down. Also jot down questions, things you had trouble understanding or any inconsistencies you may have noticed. It will jog your brain on issues that came up in readings and provide a base for asking questions and elaborating on others’ opinions. Also prepare a few points for each of the class discussion questions provided. These questions are not only central to class discussions but are the key issues of the given topic. They’re also great indicators of issues that may arise in exams.

4. Many people find that the biggest hurdle in class participation is a lack of confidence. An easy way to work on this is to start a study group (check out our article Geeks United: Tips for a Successful Study Group) and build confidence by preparing answers to class questions and sharing opinions. It also shows what sort of issues might come up in class. This puts you one step ahead of the rest!

5. Good preparation means you’ll answer questions quicker in class and also helps with your confidence. If you feel as if you understand the issues, answering and asking questions will come naturally.

In Class

1. Each tutor will mark differently. If you would like to clarify what is expected of you in terms of class participation, have a brief discussion to your tutor about what they are looking for and how to maximise your marks.

2. Sometimes it may be daunting when questions are directed to you in class but these questions are usually foreseeable. Some frequently asked questions include:

  • Who are the parties?

  • What are the facts of the case?

  • What is the rule?

  • What was the reasoning?

Did the decision in this case confirm or differ from previous authorities? If it is different, how is it different? And of course the class discussion questions provided in your course outline.

3. You can engage in class discussions by linking the discussion back to a case/reading, expanding on another’s points, agree with others (giving reasons why), asking others questions about their views and showing your knowledge of the readings by referring to a particular judgment, issue or policy.

4. When you’re nervous or busy formulating something to say, you can easily forget to listen to what other students in your class are saying. If you do this, you may end up repeating a point that somebody else has already raised. Try to follow the discussion closely. When you hear people repeating points you probably roll your eyes. Don’t do it to your classmates. You’ll be that oblivious guy in class that drives everyone nuts.

5. If somebody else makes a really awesome argument that you had also planned to raise, just agree with them and move on. If you can’t contribute a different perspective on the point, let it go and remember to be the first to raise your hand next time.

6. Observe those in class that seem to be at ease/ confident. What do they do? How do they initiate a topic? How do they expand on and engage with the ideas and views of others? Try to adopt these behaviors.

7. Remember simple things like being on time, attending as many classes as you can and coming prepared. Your tutor will love you for it. Also, if you’re unhappy with an assessment mark, your tutor is going to be more willing to assist you as they have seen how hardworking and diligent you are in class.

8. Don’t freak out! Tutorials are great places to make mistakes - it clears up any confusion that you (and probably also some of your classmates) may have had. This is the time to make mistakes so that you don’t do it in other assessments.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: This story was first published on Survive Law on 4 August 2010.

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