Benefits and Pitfalls of speaking up


In the classroom, some students are hesitant about speaking up for various reasons. They may be shy (as in the case of introverts), they may be concerned that their class mates may find their questions intrusive during the lesson or they may simply be disinterested in the content of the lessons.

As educators, we should encourage students to overcome all the abovementioned psychological barriers by speaking up. This is because it is only through the students’ verbal contributions in class that educators are able to gauge their understanding level for the lesson.  And if the students ask questions, the whole class benefits when the educators answer the queries. Of course, it will be great if educators are able to provide multiple perspectives when answering the questions. For example, when asked if individualism is encouraged in the workplace, educators can – through questions – encourage students to explore the benefits and pitfalls of individualism in the workplace. The concept of collectivism can also be brought in at this point. This will enable students to gain a wide spectrum of possibilities to explore when it comes to this issue.

Personally, I will also pose questions to the class. I feel that this technique of questioning engages students intellectually and this has both the benefit of them staying alert during the lesson and increasing their critical thinking skills (especially when the questions posed are open-ended questions). And most students are actually eager to answer the questions, not in a bid to compete with one another but for the satisfaction of answering it correctly.  One good technique to use is asking students to guess a word that defines the key concepts.  Have the student guess the letters one at a time and release the letter once they have guessed correctly.  This game has the effect of engaging the students well.

While the classroom is a conducive environment whereby students feel safe to contribute their thoughts and opinions, the workplace is a different environment altogether.  Students are often not aware of this and will often bring their enthusiasm to contribute to the workplace.  And they often learn it the hard way when things go awry and their contributions are either ignored or rejected outright.

Educators have the responsibility to encourage students to contribute their thoughts and opinions in the classrooms (which they often do) but it’s also imperative that educators inform students about the challenges in the workplace (when it comes to the contribution of thoughts and ideas) as well.

While the classroom is a conducive environment whereby students are encouraged to collaborate with one another to have an enriching learning experience, the workplace is often considered to be a competitive environment. A good example will be sales team competing to outdo one another in terms of revenue earned.  While it can be said that the ultimate objective is to drive up the profitability of the company, it’s still an inter-team competition.  Although most companies emphasise on collaborative effort in teamwork to achieve corporate excellence (such as working together in a project), there’s always that competitive element in the corporate workplace (such as doing well individually to secure a positive job appraisal).  Educators should inform students about this fact.

Therefore, while there may only be benefits when it comes to speaking up in class, there are pitfalls when speaking up in the workplace. When one speaks up too often in the workplace, he or she may come across as being competitive, aggressive or even downright domineering. This is especially so if the organisation value collectivism more than individualism.  Students should be taught about being tactful when speaking, something that is not often being emphasised in school. And even if it does, such skills are not taught as part of a syllabus but only highlighted by some educators as a sign of goodwill, which is not sufficient for students to gain a full understanding of the issue.

The intricacies of circumventing bureaucracies in the workplace should be made clear to the students while they are still in the classrooms, and not after they have left their schools.


2 thoughts on “Benefits and Pitfalls of speaking up

  1. Your post is quite relevant. I had not thought if the differences you present. Students should be taught the various motives people have in their actions and interactions with others. They should be aware that even educators have motives for behavior, some of which do not solely involve helping students learn.

    I would love to see an educational system that is aware of and teaches to the various personalities and resultant learning styles of its students. This may be because, as an introvert, I was not a joiner and was ‘lost’ in the crowd. Popular kids and truants were well known to the school administration but there seemed to be no effort to reach out to those like me who were not able to reach out or connect. Not all families, parents, or students know how to relate school experiences to real life, nor are all able to realize what may be ‘out there’.


  2. I agree with most of your observations about encouraging higher levels of verbal participation from students, particulary your opening examples of why kids might be disengaged. I would hazard a guess, though, that you’ve not had direct classroom experiences, because there are some other key factors I would have expected to see in this type of discourse.

    For example, English language learners are a key group that need to be encouraged to ‘talk through’ their understanding of a lesson to support their acquisition of new concepts and vocabulary.

    Additionally, it is no longer sufficient to have students contribute a “What is…” or “Is it…” Effective teachers today use instructional methods that encourage asking open-ended or critical thinking questions, “Why did the character…” or “How did those factors impact…”

    I appreciate how you bridge that important transition from a student developing both competitive and collaborative skills to the application of those abilities in the working world. If you have not delved into what the pedagogical world has written about closing the achievement gap, a quick read that may offer some resonance on this topic would be any of Ruby Payne’s books on understanding and teaching kids in poverty.

    These young learners bring into the classroom their gaps in knowledge, rich experiences with survival on the streets, and a casual speaking register with the potential to close opportunities to them for future employment. Once a teacher grasps that these students often tell narratives in circular fashion, as opposed to the traditional, linear beginning-middle-end style that most teachers from middle-class homes are familiar with, it’s no longer about the child’s deficits, and what they can’t communicate. The challenge becomes honoring those cultural or class-based realities and pushing each student to ‘translate’ that story to an academic format.

    As you can tell, this is a soapbox I like climbing on, and I’ll just indulge in one more digression. Some of the latest neurological research about language acquisition and the construction of memory – which directly impacts how each person learns – reveals that students from homes with African-American dialect (AAL) might need not only direct instruction in code switching to mainstream English (MELD), but also continual exposure over a period of time to hearing those -ed or -ing endings often dropped in casual register in order to develop the actual physical neurological connections to process the sounds without delay.

    Bottomline, there’s not one magical lesson nor one week of lessons that can increase student-teacher and student-student communication, but rather an outlook and appreciation for the diversity of learning styles that each child brings into the classroom that should be the starting point for truly communicating with young learners.

    Ah, and I’ll leave ya with a teaser…there’s also very telling articles out there about HOW teacher bias in communicating with female and male students dampens young women’s participation in more rigorous math and science classes.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s