Class Participation in Indian Business Schools

Wade (1994) considered the “ideal class discussion” as one in which all students are participating, learning, and listening to each other’s ideas, comments, and questions.

Isenberg (1991) proposed small group discussions as one way to force students to become actively and decisively engaged in classroom discussions.

Class Participation(or CP) is a medium by which the instructor attains active participation of the students in order to bring clarity of thought and collective/individual learning in a skill based course. It is considered to be a part of the evaluation component in IIMs. In HBS it accounts for nearly 50% of the overall evaluation component for most of the courses.

As per the experts, CP is an important aspect of student learning. When students involve in interaction they learn to articulate themselves and by questioning they build an enhanced understanding of the topic.

CP is a valuable learning tool for teachers also. Sometimes they get to know new dimensions about the topic from the student’s perspective and thereby they adjust their instructions accordingly.




Different types of class participation

Genuine CP

As MBA is a skill based course it is necessary to have CP, as it increases the opportunity of active learning and passively absorbing content and it also provides opportunities for students to learn from peers. Exposure to different views places the onus on students to compare and evaluate views. The skills of persuasion, competition, development of new beliefs are established during this learning experience. Participants who find this to add most value to their learning involve in genuine CP. They always seek feedback from peers as they feel that it helps in the development of knowledge and skills.

Desperate CP

Due to incorporation of evaluation component, students who want to score better GPA’s, take CP as an opportunity to sharpen their grades. Apparently there is another group of participants who make sure that if they have a point they make it loud and clear to the audience, they are the ones who tend to seek special attention during the course of CP. These are the groups that are involved in the phenomenon of desperate CP. Gestures like raising hand to the maximum peak, behaving in the most childish way one can, shouting “Sir! Sir!” are also witnessed during this time.

Cold call CP

In order to involve the entire class in the discussion the instructors often prefer cold call CP. They explicitly call a student to ask question/response/opinion about the case being studied. For calling the students the instructors rely on a variety of principles. Instructors may choose which student to call or avoid, they may bring in less active participants or the one with prior experience on the topic to get in expert advice or they may probe in someone who is active in terms of the body language.

Caution: Be prepared for the class if your professor prefers Cold Call CP. Otherwise he may even show you the door.

After class participation

Sometimes the class participation is so active that the students find the interaction to be prolonged and they carry it to teacher’s cabin after the class wraps up. There are another set of students who don’t manage to make their presence felt in class so they tend to extend participation after the class to make their point. This type of CP is known as ACP (After class participation).

Challenge CP

This is a very recent type of CP that has come up in the B-schools. It is done mostly to have fun in class. When the class begins, a slip is circulated among the students with a word written on it. The challenge is to use that word in your speech when you are trying to be involved in the class. The words can be as weird as “Oppa-Gangnam style” in the class of Quantitative Techniques. The student who wins the challenge the most number of times is crowned as the CP king or queen.

Caution: Try this at your own risk because professors at IIMs are very experienced and may even figure out that the challenge is on.

Globe/GAS CP

Globe is a type of statement that goes round and round and round and round. GAS is Globally Accepted Shit, making no sense either to the listener or to the instructor However, these are in play and the listeners of this participation wonder if they are seriously below the grade to understand the operating jargon??

Caution: Professors award you negative CP points for globe CP

The struggle to express oneself in front of adults or students manifests itself in a variety of ways in the class room- not volunteering to answer questions, not asking for help, not speaking up in small-group activities, even not talking in class at all. So to make the process easy, here are some ways by which you can enhance your CP (and score better grades :-p )

1) If there is an assigned reading for the class, make it a point to read it well in advance. Relate it with your learning of the unit

2) Never be shy to give an answer to the doubt of your friend in class, the instructor will feel that you are paying attention

3) Maintain good body language to show that you are interested and paying undivided attention

4) Try to figure out your teacher’s style, whether she wants opinions, comments, interpretations or answers or both. Make rich notes in class so that you can give answers

5) Do not insist on attention. Be a good participator without feeling resentful.

6) Go ahead and express your view even though it may be possible that you have a different opinion than the others. Always remember that uniqueness is admired

7) Keep your homework up to date

8) Speak clearly, make sense and be confident of what you are speaking

Make use of phrases like “I agree with what you are saying” to express support and “We seem to have different opinions about this – may I tell you what I think?” to express disagreement

If you don’t speak, your classmates won’t know what you’re thinking and if you don’t give it a try, you won’t know if what you have to say is actually interesting or not. Effective communication involves listening to what others have to say. Hopefully next time, this guide will help to make valuable participation in class.

– Barleen Kaur


Barleen Kaur is currently pursuing her first year PGDM at IIM Indore (Class of 2015). She did her B.Tech degree from GGS Indraprastha University in Computer Science and Engineering and worked as a training manager at a consulting company and also started a coaching center. She has a strong affinity for writing and is an avid orator.

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