Why Won’t They Talk in Class?

Ashley Marshall in her piece entitled, Talk to Me (Chronicle Review, June 25, 2012), noted how frustrating it is for professors when excellent students do not speak up in class.  Marshall admits she was one of those students.  She points out that there are many reasons why students won’t speak up:  under-prepared, frightened, uninterested, hoping to coast through the semester with a C.  When Marshall encountered a student like she was in her course, she offered help to her.  Marshall wrote that she “e-mailed her a few questions before the next class discussion and told her to try out an answer on me before the class met.  She duly, if tentatively, offered her electronic answer, and I responded with (justified) reassurance.”  The help worked.  Of course, professors may not encounter the same situation, the same type of student.  But, Marshall advises that “if the object is to get the most you can from all your students, then you need to offer help and encouragement wherever possible.”  Most of us would agree with Marshall as to our charge.  Perhaps the trick for us is to search for the reasons for students not speaking up in class.  Once you have the reason, an appropriate solution can be tried.

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