4 Unspoken Rules of Class Discussions Every Student Should Know

You might be under the impression that college is that part of your life where there are finally no rules.

Alas, there are. But between googling do my assignment services and prepping for exams, you might not even realize that some rules are unspoken.

What’s worse, you might be breaking some of them without knowing, and that can easily turn you into a source of irritation for your classmates. Maybe, you’re asking too many questions, slowing everyone down. Or you stray away from the topic during a debate, rendering it boring or confusing.

Or, maybe, you do none of those things. How do you know? Well, check out the four unspoken rules below – and see if any of them ring a bell.

Don’t Monopolize the Question Asking

Think back to the discussions you’ve had so far. Were you the only person asking questions? Or did you ask most of the questions during them?

If the answer to either of those questions is yes, bad news: your fellow students probably secretly hate you for taking over the class with your inquiries. They’d love to just sit through the class until its end without it getting interrupted every five minutes with yet anotherquestion.

While some curiosity is great, ask yourself: would others benefit from the answer to your question? If its purpose is to clarify something, then it’s a question worth asking.

But if it concerns something personal, like how to approach a topic in your essay, or if you want to dig deeper into the subject, save it for later. You can visit the professor during office hours or have a quick word after class – without slowing down the whole group.

Avoid Digressing

Is what you’re saying pertinent to the subject matter? That’s a question you should keep in the back of your mind every time you open your mouth in class.

Sometimes, you can lead the conversation away from the topic at hand without realizing it. You know how it is: you start with one thing, it leads to another, and then another…

Imagine you’re supposed to be discussing the consequences of the French Revolution. If you end up talking about whether Napoleon can be held accountable for prolonging slavery ten minutes into the discussion, other students will wonder: what does that have to do with the topic?

So, try to remember that when you participate in a discussion, your contributions should be:

  • Relevant;
  • Concise;
  • Specific;
  • Respectful.

Don’t Engage in a One-on-One Conversation

During the class, one person kickstarts a five-minute conversation with the professor that the rest of the students couldn’t care less for. Or, a group discussion quickly turns into an argument between just two students while the rest mentally check out.

Sounds familiar? If not, you might be the person who derailed the class with a one-on-one conversation. (Or, you’ve just been lucky enough not to have such a talkative student at all.)

To avoid breaking this rule, remember the first one on this list and extrapolate it to all discussions. In practice, it means:

  1. Keeping your responses on-point and concise;
  2. Remaining silent if you’re the only one who’ll benefit from speaking;
  3. Keeping your emotions in check during the conversation;
  4. Proactively encouraging input from other participants by asking questions.

Learn to Be a Good Listener

You can’t have a meaningful discussion without listening to other participants. Yet, sometimes, students zone out when someone else speaks – or impatiently wait for them to finish so that they can blurt out their opinion. This is the opposite of being a good listener.

But what constitutes being a good listener, exactly? Here are a few tips for you if you want to become one:

  • Pay attention to both the verbal and non-verbal language of the person speaking;
  • Avoid getting distracted by something like a notification on your phone;
  • Remain calm during the conversation if it ever threatens to get on your nerves;
  • Show that you’re listening attentively with non-verbal cues (posture, eye contact, etc.);
  • Don’t rehearse what you’ll say while someone else is speaking;
  • Acknowledge when you’re in the wrong.
Learn to Be a Good Listener

In Conclusion

Discussions are a great way to boost your learning, create a more collaborative environment, and get you more engaged in the process. However, for it to be an enjoyable part of studying, everyone involved should follow the unwritten pact that ensures no one gets too much or too little out of it.

So, if you’ve just realized you regularly break one of the rules above, it’s a sign you should change your ways. Rethink how you contribute in the classroom and do what it takes to avoid irritating your fellow learners – and make the experience more gratifying for everyone.

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