Raise Your Hand: Why Participation in Class Is Key to Academic Engagement


Inc. Magazine

In addition to the numerous benefits it provides, active participation in class promotes an engaging learning experience.

Jake Kalinowski, Freelancer

School. Whether you love it or you hate it, it’s a part of our lives. But school as we know it has changed quite a bit over the past year. From fully remote instruction to hybrid schedules to in-person classes — with COVID safety measures a crucial part of each — school is very different than it was in early March 2020. But the COVID-19 pandemic has also brought about an important — but often overlooked — change: participation, an integral component of learning, is almost non-existent.

As a senior at Northport High School, I have noticed a significant decrease in student participation in my classes. Unfortunately, this change correlates to an awkward and boring class. Without student participation, it is challenging to remain engaged in the lesson; it becomes more difficult to carry conversations — a ‘fun’ aspect of class. Importantly, a lack of participation is detrimental to the learning process; we learn best when we actively engage in the lesson and ask questions.

Actively participating in class provides numerous benefits. To start, active class participation refines one’s critical and higher level thinking skills. When students participate in class, they learn from each other. This encourages comprehension through cooperation, which in turn improves the relationships between classmates and those between students and their teachers.

The benefits of active class participation, however, are sometimes lost in “pandemic school”. It is difficult for students to collaborate and share ideas — a fundamental feature of a successful learning environment.

I was initially hesitant to participate during ‘pandemic school’. None of my peers contributed to class discussions; it was awkward to participate, and I found it easier to sit quietly during class. Now, I enjoy participating in class. I have realized that student comments promote a more fun and engaging class.

I was bothered by my peers’ lack of engagement in class; it seemed that many did not care about school, or did not see the value in engaging in the lesson. Why is there such a lack of student participation in class?

To answer this question, I created a poll on my Instagram account. Almost 200 high school and college students from across Long Island responded. 49 of these respondents indicated that they do not participate in class because they feel that doing so is awkward and that school is boring. 56 attributed their lack of class participation to the pandemic, while another 63 claimed that they do not care enough to participate. 

It is understandable that a plurality of survey respondents do not care enough to participate. Since schools closed last March (and with the academic changes that have ensued) many students feel that school is ‘optional’. The COVID-19 pandemic and the related restrictions have fostered the idea that there are ‘more important things’ in life than school. As a result, many students struggle to find the motivation to succeed academically.

For many, mental health deteriorated over the past year. This change also impacts desire to participate in school. Mental health problems can affect a student’s energy level, concentration, dependability, mental ability, and optimism — ultimately hindering academic performance.

The Northport-East Northport UFSD’s return to full in-person instruction for secondary students may encourage students to participate in class. If nothing else, surrounding oneself with others that participate is beneficial to the learning experience.

When I unmute my microphone at home, or raise my hand in class, I feel happy. The teacher is almost always appreciative of my effort; usually, this reaction encourages me to participate more frequently.

So I encourage you to try raising your hand. To try answering a question. Of course, there will be days when we are not in the ‘right mood’ to participate in class. But when we gather the strength to participate, it is typically not as ‘bad’ as we thought it would be.

Participate not only for your benefit, but for the benefit of your friends. Participate to enhance the class. You may actually learn something new, or unintentionally start up an engaging conversation that lasts the whole period. Because when we participate in class, time passes more quickly, class seems more engaging, and school becomes more fun.