When students feel confident in their ability to communicate well, they’ll be more likely to participate fully in class. A confident student will also display respect for others and earn their respect in return.

Alas, many students may feel reluctant to participate in class… yet with a bit of guidance and support, they can begin to build their confidence and become more fully engaged in class. Many of these same skills can also translate into their relationships outside the classroom.

In her book The Confident Student, Eighth Edition, Carol C. Kanar describes a number of ways that students can participate with confidence in the classroom. We’ve listed them below, and also offered some practical tips that students can use to start engaging in these behaviors today.

1. Listen carefully and attentively to what others are saying.
Whether it’s your instructor giving a lecture or a fellow student sharing his or her position during a discussion or conversation, show interest and respect by paying attention. If you hear what they’re saying, you’ll track with the topic at hand. What’s more, the speaker will notice your consideration (or, at the very least, won’t observe a lack of consideration).

2. Make and maintain eye contact with the speaker.
As you maintain eye contact with others, they will know you’re focusing on what they have to say. As a result, they’ll feel respected, and thus be more likely to give you respect when it’s your chance to speak.

3. Take notes.
A good set of notes serves as a great tool for study and review… but the act of taking notes will also help you stay focused. You can also refer back to your notes over the course of a discussion, and thus back up your opinion with supporting evidence that comes right from the class session.

4. Be willing to ask questions.
Want clarification about an assignment or a particular point the instructor made? Curious about your classmate’s opinion? Simply need some help finding the library or laundromat? Don’t be afraid to ask! Most people will be glad you asked, and in most situations, they’ll be glad to answer as well. Furthermore, you’ll benefit from the information you receive. However: do so when it’s appropriate; wait for your instructor to invite questions. During a discussion, avoid interrupting, and listen for a pause in the conversation before speaking.

5. Speak up and offer your perspective.
Have something relevant to share with your class? Make it known! You’ll be glad that you’ve expressed your insights, and your instructor will see that you’re engaged in the class.

6. Act “professionally” in class.
Treat your academic career as you would your professional career. Show up on time, behave politely, and act with integrity. Don’t engage in distracting behaviors such as text messaging, note-passing, or side conversations. Complete your commitments and turn in your work on time. (Kanar 121)

Reference: Kanar, Carol C. 2014. The Confident Student, Eighth Edition. Boston: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

How do you encourage students to participate with confidence in class? What additional skills or habits would you add to this list? Share them in the comments.