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.