Sunday, December 12, 2010

Why do students remain silent in class?


A common failing of college students nowadays is they tend to be very opinionated over the Internet and remain quite silent in the classrooms, as pointed out by Wu Nian-zhen, writer and movie director, at a lecture in Shih Hsin University. Wu therefore called for adjustment to the pedagogy of our higher education. Some, however, do not entirely agree with Wu for a fact that students may express their opinions anyway they see fit. After all, the time has changed.

Over twenty-five years of experience teaching college students lead me to believe that there may be a number of reasons why students keep quiet in the classroom which I will name a few here. One of which is that they may not want to offend the instructor. What if the teacher fails to answer their questions and flunks them in retaliation? Next, they are not paying enough attention to or not preparing enough for the lesson, so they do not know what to ask. Thirdly, they do not want to embarrass themselves among their peer. They are afraid of asking “stupid” questions to be laughed at by their fellow classmates. Last but also the most crucial problem with the students is their lack of ability to initiate, organize, and express their opinions openly.

In Taiwan students have been long conditioned to a learning environment limited to passively memorizing whatever teachers teach and writing the “correct” answers on their exam sheets to get their grades. They are not properly trained to be responsible for their own studies. Therefore, to avoid molding students as rote memory test-taking machines, in addition to teaching students to acquire the knowledge by reading books, visiting libraries, and surfing the Net etc, teachers should further teach and encourage students how to form and express their opinions and ask questions.

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