Combining learners off is one of the methods. As an instructor, encourage cadets to ask each other a word or definition from cards that you may create having the words in them and others having the definitions. Alternate turns. If the cadet gets it right, that cadet gets the card, or it is taken out of an active pile. This behavior will somehow increase participation as cadets will get involved to pile up the cards in the correct manner.
Another important way to increase the involvement is by making the cadets aware of the importance of conflict and conflict resolution in the learning groups. In the formed groups sometimes conflicts arise due to disagreements on the topic as some cadets tend to support while others tend to bring in issues that others will disagree. In this case, many of the cadets will tend to think that a well-functioning group requires being conflict-free, when indeed, a certain amount of conflict is essential to obtain more, and learn at a deeper level or expose various perceptions. Helping cadets to comprehend that healthy conflict is necessary is one of the duties of a instructor and should not be avoided. Instructors can even plan exercises that force cadets to have a little argument few days to their group functioning. Moreover, the instructor needs to guide their learners on how to handle conflict adequately. Probably the most significant rule of conflict resolve is an honest and open conversation. Cadets should feel comfortable talking about the conflict between all members of the group at once.
By cadets helping their peers to learn and understand better is another strategic way of increasing participation. When cadets discuss issues together and in this case a topic, they tend to learn and understand each other better since they share one common language. It’s the work of the instructor to look into the mood of the class, and if lecture does not operate he or she incorporate this method.
Another way is by letting the cadets come to class having read the assignment or topic that the instructor is introducing. This technique will go a long way in making the cadets aware of whatever it is the lecturer is teaching. This behavior makes learning very active as cadets will respond to the instructor and questions asked in a keen manner. They will also be keen on whatever presentation made to them.
Another important method to increase participation in class is by the instructor making a connection with the cadets outside the classroom. Instructors, in this case, should try visiting the cadets outside the classroom in their free and bonding times. Here they should try to connect with them on the various issues they have either in school or outside. Cadets here will feel that there is someone who is with them and caring. This measure will reflect back to their classes as the same instructors while teaching the same cadets will tend to participate since there is no feeling of shamefully or a stranger is in class.
Rewarding is another method of increasing class participation. Reinforcing the cadets who are active will go handy in making those that don’t participate desire to contribute since there is a reward for participation. Rewarding may take different ways such as giving a sweet or encouraging words or letting other cadets appreciate the cadet. This approach will make the shy cadets or those that do not participate for fear to fail to want to share more since they would love to be rewarded or appreciated hence increasing participation.
An area that is most important in increasing participation and sometimes ignored by the instructors is reserving a classroom that will accommodate the exact kind of involvement they haves in mind. From the very first day of class, the instructor should arrange the classroom in a way that encourages active and proper participation. When it is time to reserve a lecture room, an instructor should understand that it is not the number of cadet chairs you will only need but also whether these chairs should be moveable. If there are recurrent discussions, consider moving the chairs into a circle or a state that ensures that cadets can see, and speak to, one another. If the teaching is in a big hall, consider asking cadets to move closer so that they can concentrate and minimize the chance of not hearing the message delivered. Move the chairs back to their standard configuration at the end of class. This closeness and togetherness of the cadets will increase participation as some who fear to shout will not have to shout as they are close.
Placing emphasis on cadet ideas and points can boost involvement. Encouraging cadets to share their thoughts and use those ideas whenever you can is important. Referring to a remark made by a cadet in a previous class exhibits that you have thought about it and appreciated what your cadets have to say. Instructors should keep on reflecting back and focusing on the ideas the cadet have contributed and in the case of corrections, he should make it in a way that he should not offend or criticize the cadet. Using the ideas provided by cadets will encourage participation.
Grading the cadet’s participation also helps the same. In this case plan to give cadets a preliminary participation grade, as well as a brief written evaluation of their performance. In this case, the instructor should consider a written evaluation designed to encourage the quiet cadets to talk more often and the extrovert cadets to hold their comments to give others a chance to participate. This practice will inspire the silent cadets to continue speaking and contributing in class while it will also be designed to make the extrovert cadets to at times hold their comments and give others a chance.
Appointing team leaders is another effective way of increasing participation. Team leaders are often selected in classes and discussion groups to monitor other cadets. Team leaders, however, should be chosen in a sensitive manner to avoid bullying of other cadets. These cadets should lead discussions but with the guidance from the instructors. Instructors should make sure that they implement guidelines on the ways of carrying out an activity and entrust the leaders to lead in the event. This method will bring to the task even the shy cadets as they will be in a position to identify with their fellow cadets who are team leaders. The leaders will also appoint other cadets from their groups who will make the presentations, and this will go hand in hand in increasing participation and trigger the introvert cadets participate and work on their fears.
Making participation an expectation from the cadets is another way to increase the involvement. Before introducing a subject or topic make the cadets aware that you expect participation from all of them and you can keep them on track by letting them know that whoever that will not participate will be made to remain to stand during the lesson. This approach will maintain the cadets on toes and awake and will get them to be active to avoid being made to stand up and other cadets viewing them as failures. This precaution will go a long way in increasing participation and making the cadets follow on whatever the instructor is teaching. Shy and dull cadets will also be involved in the lesson making them more curious and concentrate.
Cadet Reflection is another way to increase participation. It is so when the instructor wants to bring an end to their discussions, or desires to settle learners down after a noisy teamwork activity. The instructor, in this case, should ask them to do a quick write or short journal-writing assignment. By asking them what was the most interesting about the topic of discussion or what was the most confusing about the same or what was the clearest thing they understood, what was boring or what did the subject made them think of in their life.
Classroom participation requires guidelines on the same implemented. The instructor being the instructor should play a significant role in being the facilitator and supporter in the cadet’s efforts to achieve respectful participation. There can be participation but without respect and guidelines on the same correct participation cannot be achieved. It’s in this case therefore that the instructor should bring the specific guidelines for participation.
These guidelines for class participation can be designed and structured by the instructor and negotiated with the cadets to make it as easy as possible. By asking for their contribution, you give cadets the sense of ownership that can help them take the guidelines more seriously. The provided procedures can be used to create an atmosphere of mutual respect and shared inquiry during participation.
One is showing respect to others’ rights to hold opinions and beliefs that differ from your own. Cadets should challenge or criticize the idea, not the person. During participation, different cadets have differences of conscience on a particular topic of discussion. The difference will arise when the cadets are contributing to whatever it is that they have been asked to participate. It is the role of the instructor, in this case, to make sure that the different views and opinions from various cadets, if they are to be challenged, should be contested in the correct and sensitive manner to avoid questioning the person. If the individual is tested some will take it seriously which can bring about war and misinterpretations?
Another issue is that instructors should make sure that the cadet’s listen carefully to what others are saying even when they disagree what they say. Comments that cadets make if they are not clear on them they should ask for clarification, sharing critiques, expanding on a point and all this should reflect that they have paid attention to the speaker’s comments. Cadets should first pay attention to a person contributing without interrupting then respond to the same in the correct manner.
Instructors should make sure that cadets are courteous. Cadets should not disrupt or engage in private conversations while others are speaking. Some cadets tend to be sharp and brave and at times want to interject when their classmates are giving a response. This interruption may make the other cadets shy away and hold up what they wanted to share since they feel that their reaction will not be of use. In cases of conversations between the instructor and the cadets, other cadets should learn to respect and not interfere when they are discussing. This behavior will show respect and cadets will respect and honor others decisions and points.
Cadets should learn to support their statements giving evidence. This practice will go handy in increasing participation. Whenever a cadet is giving a respond to a certain topic, he or she needs to support their statements to avoid the back and forth of interruptions with questions. This support and evidence of the answers will prevent the critic of their presentation and make cadets contented.
Another way is by giving each cadet a chance to talk. If a cadet has much to say, try to hold them back a bit, and if they are hesitant to speak, the instructor should look for opportunities to contribute to the discussion. Instructors, in this case, should not be biased and should give all cadets equal time to speak. This measure will lead to making the cadets’ attentive bond keen on whatever their mates have to say and also give them time because they will also need a chance to respond. This activity will bring order to the class and during presentations and make cadets more attentive.
The above guidelines are used to ensure that instructors attain adequate participation. There can be participation but without the above guidelines brought about participation cannot be efficient and achieved. As a result, we make the conclusion that for contribution to be useful, it requires rules and regulations which govern every party. It is the obligation of the instructor who is the controller of participation to control the class when there is involvement, and he should do it in a manner that avoids bias. Participation can be all involving and cadets who do not participate should be made aware that they are expected to be attentive and active since there is an allocation of grades.
Participation is however governed by some factors which include the following. One is the attitude. Attitude is the personal feeling of a cadet towards the instructor, subject or other cadets. A cadet’s attitude towards the instructor, subject or other cadets will go a long way in determining how the cadet will participate in class. No matter how the instructor struggles to teach and involve the cadet to participate, the cadet will do nothing than sitting and staring if that cadet has a negative attitude towards the instructor. Instructors, in this case, are advised to work on the attitudes of cadets towards them or a subject or their classmates which make it easier in increasing participation.
Another issue that governs or contributes to how participation will be is motivation. Cadets should be motivated to participate on all subjects as this will go down to helping them and contributing to their grades. Cadets who also do not participate should be motivated to do the same. Cadets also who go wrong while giving participations or presentations should also be motivated so that they do it well the next time. This measure will result in boosting the said participation.
The cadet’s aptitude also contributes to classroom involvement. This term refers to the willingness of a cadet to learn. Some of the cadets have no interest in learning or even in presentations. Some lose interest in the subject or whatever it is in the discussion. In such a situation it is usually difficult to achieve participation. Cadets should be eager to learn, and instructors should come with ways to capture this.
Some of the cadets do not love participating not because of ignorance but because of the language barrier. Limited competence in a language could make cadets feel ashamed and prevent them from talking slowing down participation. In this scenario, instructors should pay attention to this and come up with ways to handle this. This shame can increase if there is misperception or self-criticizing. In this case, most of the cadets share a misguided perception of their participation. At times it is seen that instructors tend to value the cadet’s participation more than the cadets themselves. The solution to this problem can lead to an increased activeness. The solution here is by instructors openly recognizing the cadet’s effort or aptitude to participate more often. This way the self-esteem and self-confidence to speak aloud could positively increase promoting a healthier and more conducive environment that would foster cadet’s participation.
During participation, the assumption of the instructor is that when the cadets know the answer or when they have questions is when they participate. Using this aspect where only the ones who knows the answer or when cadets have questions is when they are involved, there would be low participation in class since the cadets who are not aware of the correct solution to a problem will not participate leaving it to other cadets. If also the cadets do not have questions they will not be active moving the class to only the instructor and making it dull and the results will lead to poor quality of education. By cadets having doubts also do not increase participation. It happens because they tend not to be sure of whatever they want to share making them hold back instead of having to share and getting criticized. Instructors should come up with ways to handle this and increase participation.
As seen in the reasons, benefits and ways of increasing participation, participation is one important feature in the learning environment. To achieve this behavior, it should be as involving as possible. For its achievement, instructors should pay attention to cadet’s preferences and the areas they are comfortable. Attitude and instructor’s practices are paramount, and they do affect participation.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the United States Military Academy, Department of the Army, or Department of Defense.
Captain Robert Ali is currently serving as a Military Science Instructor at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point. He holds a B.S. from Excelsior College, a MBA from Columbia Southern University, M.A. from Webster University, and a M.A. from Liberty University. Additionally, he successfully completed the requirements of the U.S. Military Academy’s Center for Faculty Excellence two year Master Teacher Program (MTP) in the accelerated one year program. During his career, CPT Ali has served with units within the 1st Infantry Division, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, the 10th Mountain Division, and 7th Signal Command.
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