Eight things to help you speak out in class

Speaking out in class

It’s important to ask if you have a question in class and here are a few points that might help.

It’s a familiar feeling – sitting in a lecture confused by a point that’s just been made or a topic that’s been covered and being too shy to stick your hand up and ask. Then you miss the next point. Either it builds on the previous one or you’re too busy thinking about the thing you didn’t understand.

Before you know it the whole class has passed in a blur of incomprehension. You feel terrible because you know that you’ve got to pass your exam soon - your whole career depends on it.

Don’t panic. Here are some tips to help.

You aren’t alone

Almost certainly, there will be others in the same situation. Lecturer Jennifer Cloke said: “If you’re thinking a question then someone else in the class will be too, as evidenced by all the times that someone else does ask something and you find yourself thinking ‘ah, that’s what I was wondering’.”

Find answers sooner than later

Lecturer Rachel Norman explains that it’s better to seek answers when the confusion first arises. She said: “It’s best to ask questions as soon as students have them so that they don’t sit being confused about one topic but then miss the whole next section.”

It also allows for specific issues to be resolved more easily. “Being specific with questions really helps us to explain rather than when they just say ‘I don’t understand this whole topic or day’s teaching’,” Rachel added.

Believe that people don’t judge

For the most part, people don’t judge others, so they really aren’t thinking about how foolish you sound. The majority of the time, individuals are too wrapped up in themselves to pay attention to what others are doing.

No one can tell how shy you feel

It doesn’t matter how anxious you are about speaking out in public, no one can tell from the outside. You appear to be perfectly confident, so play on the illusion by asking your question. Take a deep breath and jump in with what you need to know.

Practice speaking out

The more often you speak out in class, the more comfortable you will become with it. It will get easier and the confidence to talk in public will serve you well.

Just put your hand up

Sometimes it’s all about making the first move. So commit yourself and put your hand up. Your tutor will ask what your question is and all you have to do is answer. They’re just as concerned that you fully understand as you are.

Write down the question

If you fear you won’t be able to get the question out without stammering or getting lost, then jot down the points you want to make. The process of writing down the words will help them come more easily when you need to ask.

Take advantage of breaks

You don’t need to ask your question in front of the rest of the class. Rachel said: “If students are really nervous about asking us in front of the rest of the class, we are always happy to speak to students in teaching breaks or at lunchtimes etc.”


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