College: An Introvert's Nightmare
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College: An Introvert's Nightmare

Participation Grades are Nightmare Fuel for Introverts

College: An Introvert's Nightmare

“Okay class, let’s go around the room, state your name, your major, and a fun fact about yourself.”

Ugh. Why? I’m sitting in a class with the same people I’ve had classes with for the past two years. On a campus of around 2,000 students, you always get bunched with the same students. These people know me, they know my major. They know both of the fun facts about myself: that I’ve been to 7 countries in Europe and that I’ve served on a jury.

I’m running out of fun facts over here! What should I do? Make some stuff up? If I do, I should make it really, really out there, just to point out how silly this is. Can’t we just start the lecture?

And what introvert can forget this infamous companion sentence? “Participation is 20% of your grade.”

Again, I ask, why? I promise I’ll do all the reading, all the blog posts, and turn every assignment in two weeks early if you’ll promise not to drop my grade because I don’t talk enough. It isn’t that I don’t have anything to say, it’s just that sometimes it takes a long time to figure out how to put what I want to say into a form that everyone else can clearly comprehend. I tend to get really deep into thought before finding something worthwhile to share, because I don’t think that stating the obvious has any real value in a classroom setting. By the time I find what I want to say, the class has already moved on. If what I say won’t be an improvement upon the silence, why force me to say it? If I excel at every other thing we do in this class, why give me a lower grade because I don’t have much to say in class?

Fact about me, my MBTI personality type is INFJ (Introversion, Intuitive, Feeling, Judging). I’m an introvert, and I’ll never lie about that fact. I would much rather spend my time observing what others share and processing it through my own mind. This process can take a while for me, because due to my judging nature, I sometimes get caught up in my interpretations and struggle to see how anyone else sees things differently. Literature classes are a good example of this. I distinctly remember reading Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying and my perception of Darl Bundren being very different than everyone else in my class. This was one occasion where I did speak up, simply because I had something to contribute to the conversation, but most of the time if I agree with others, I’ll let them do the talking. If I don’t care about it enough to disagree, I probably won’t speak up either. I guess I was just really invested in Faulkner.

The issue with making participation part of the grade is that I, and probably many other introverted students, find myself going for the “low-hanging fruit.” I answer questions that are so painfully obvious, that way the professor can see that I’m participating while I don’t feel out of my comfort zone too much. I don’t want to defend opinions on something that doesn’t really interest me, so I’ll just answer the easy questions so I can get my 20%.

Even typing that makes me sad. I want to be in classes where I want to share my opinions. Providing an environment where I don’t feel coerced to do so is the first step in ensuring that I will actually want to share my opinions in the first place. I don’t learn anything from answering easy questions. They don’t have any value to me, and I doubt they have any value for anyone else.

I want assignments that make me think. I want to have some form of homework that makes me develop an opinion so that I can think about it before sharing it with my class. I don’t want to bumble through my opinion like the village idiot as halfway through speaking, I discover another point that I really want to add.

I’m a writer. I like things polished. I’m not a fan of “winging it” or “playing it by ear.” I want to plan out what I’m going to say so that I don’t feel stupid. Class participation often makes me feel stupid. Because other people can immediately come up with brilliant ideas while I have to stew on concepts for a while.

I just want educators to understand that “participation” as a grade can be a really scary thing for introverts. Please don’t make our grades depend too heavily on it. Please work on providing an atmosphere where we actually feel a desire to contribute, not one where we’re forced to. Instead of asking dull questions, get a debate started. Draw people in. You’ll be surprised at who will speak up when they truly have something to say.
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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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