Making your voice heard

How to contribute to the discussion of ideas (in the American Classroom)

At the appropriate time in classroom discussions, don't be afraid to voice your opinion, even if you differ from your professor or classmates.  Your opinion can and should be based on the text, other readings, class discussions, library sources, experts in the topic, as well as your own experience.

  • In class, listen carefully to what a professor or other students are saying

  • Mark or make notes of the points you wish to answer or discuss or question
    Remember:  a question is as valuable as an opinion in the course of discussion.  
    It shows that you are trying to understand others, as well as be understood!

  • Introduce your contribution with a quick summary of the discussion or point...
        "As I understand it...."
        Restating the discussion/author's main idea also shows that you are trying to understand,
        and shows where you are in understanding
        It is very likely that if you have questions or information, others will share them

  • Be certain it is clear to the class and professor when you are summarizing and when you are giving your opinion

  • Try to keep your comments to the point and don't hesitate to refer to your notes
        Logic is not a speed test...

  • In making an argument, begin with examples from the author or teacher (imitation can be a form of flattery), but generally use your own examples to show your agreement with their point of view. This demonstrates independent thinking which should be valued in an academic setting

  • After you have spoken, it is appropriate to ask for feedback if

    • others understand what you have said

    • if others agree/disagree with you
      Demonstrate openness and dialogue:  you should score points with your professor!


A sense of competition underlies the informality of American classrooms

Voicing a well-informed opinion is important to your overall academic evaluation

First listen and try to understand others' opinions
Respect theirs, and insist on being respected for yours

Evaluations are made by professors throughout the semester;
Final grades are not simply determined by your score on the final exam.

Focus your contribution on your analysis of the topic, your reaction, your opinion, and finally your openness to understand others.

If discussion is based upone readings:

Study course lectures, articles, texts
Find the author's thesis and restate it in your own words
Decide what your opinion or reaction is to the author's thesis