Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Learning styles and participation

Corrections: My friend from the story below said you actually don't get docked points for saying something irrelevant, you just get fewer points, which encourages people to blurt out whatever they can come up with. There are also 90 people in the class!!! It just sounds like extroverted chaos to me.

I'm working on a sermon to give at my church in a couple of weeks that has to do with belonging and participation in a community. It's treating questions like how do we participate in Christian community? How does our particular community define belonging - what are the badges our community expects us to wear in order to truly be considered members? Are those healthy, biblical gauges? More on that later.

On a related note, I have a friend who has recently started grad school and she was describing her first class to me. 40% of her grade in that class is class participation. There is a TA who literally puts checks next to people's names as they make comments - if you make 3 relevant, helpful comments you get full marks for that particular class. If you make a comment that is tangential, you lose points, and if you don't make any comments, you get a zero for the day. My friend is an extrovert, but she struggles to make 3 comments every class, and many people in the class feel a lot of pressure in this system. This sort of thing really frustrates me, because it doesn't take into account different styles of learning and participation, and it is clearly biased towards extroverts. What about the people who prefer to listen and reflect before they speak? I have a friend - Susan Cain- who is writing a book called Quiet! The Importance of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking. In her book she is looking at central institutions in American life - like our educational system, and exposing the bias towards extroversion inherent in that system. This is a prime example.