I never thought there could be a penalty for being quiet. I never thought that being quiet was a bad trait. I never thought that raising my hand, and perhaps not aggressively shouting out the answer would hurt me, until I encountered participation grades.
For all of the people that tend to be quiet in class, participation grades are not their friends. In fact, they are the enemy. Participation grades normally assess students on how much they participate in class discussions. For people who love talking nonstop, this grade was invented for them. But for people who like to be quiet and observe the classroom, this grade does not do them the same justice.
Many people learn better in class by observing; moreover, many students feel uncomfortable speaking in class. If people are attentive in class but are just not being vocal, they should not be punished for it by having their participation grades lowered. They are participating in class just not using their voice. Judging if people are learning the material cannot be done by who talks in class. Sometimes the loudest people in class will just say anything to talk and actually have no understanding of the material whereas a quiet person could be absorbing and mastering the material. Therefore, participation should not be graded based on who talks in class but rather attentiveness in class. Some teachers do grade students based on their focus in class, which benefits students who do not feel comfortable speaking in class.
But if participation grades are going to be graded based on who talks in class, then the classroom needs to be an environment where everyone feels comfortable talking. In preschool, children are taught to raise their hands if they want to speak in class; in high school, that rule has disappeared. In many classes, the only way to get an opinion in the class discussion is to yell out the answer; quieter students who prefer raising their hands are silenced. The yelling out from students in class needs to stop; this type of behavior is obnoxious and inconsiderate of others.
Teachers also need to be mindful of classroom control. A classroom is not a zoo; the rule of raising your hand to speak should be enforced to allow more people to jump into the conversation. Teachers who enforce raising your hand in the classroom should be commended because more people have the opportunity to speak in class. If participation is going to be graded, then the classroom should be a calm environment where everyone can speak. Otherwise, the classroom is not providing an environment for all students to participate in discussions.
Being quiet should not be a burden to any students. As much as speaking up can be beneficial, no grade should ask quieter students to change who they are. I urge that the way participation is graded be reconsidered and that classrooms start returning to structured environments. There is real power to raising your hand; that is why they teach children to do so in preschool.