My marketing class has had more student participation than any of the other classes I have taken. It makes sense. Everyone’s a consumer, and a lot of MBA students have thought deeply about our preferences, advertising, and potential for the products that we have worked on. Outside of the marketing class, students are generally reticent.
It seems like I speak up a lot, relative to most other people. Taking a sarcastic friend’s advice, I’ve been looking for lessons in this. The main reason might be that I had a lot of small discussion-based classes as an under-grad. Lingering questions, for me, can be like a feather dangled in front of a cat’s face. I might not want to go for it, but it’s still tempting to shoot my paw into the air. Suddenly, it’s too late for me to back down, and I remember Mark Twain’s advice: “Better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool, than open it and remove all doubt.” I take a little longer to raise my hand these days.
I’ve also gotten over the instinct to blurt responses to pseudo-rhetorical question. These tend to come earlier in the quarter, when the teacher is still getting a feel for the class dynamics. When the point of a question is to see if people are doing the reading, the silent class reaction to the question is more significant to the teacher than the actual answer. The feather that gets dangled could be something like: “The opposite of gain is…” wait for it… “loss”. I don’t need to be the one to point this out, even if there is a long pause. I wouldn’t really help anyone by answering, especially since one-word answers are good chances for shy students to participate. Also, the classes are pretty large for me to think that I can help the pace by cutting into dead air time. I’m a natural project manager, but it’s not a business meeting.
There are a few more good reasons why my comfort level for class participation is unusually high. For one, I’ve worked with marketing and I’m taking a marketing class. Also, there have been a couple of recent management topics that were specific to my major. That was a pleasant surprise, since my major is rare for an MBA program. That’s a whole other story.