One of the advantages of a liberal arts education is the individualized attention your ideas receive in the classroom. Indeed, many university students don't have the privilege of such individualized attention; especially at larger institutions. How can you make the most of this? Most humanities courses, and especially courses in literary studies, require active in-class participation in order to meet course objectives (e.g., clarity of expression, evidence of sustained intellectual rigor, ability to creatively connect diverse discourses, etc.). If your class meets once or twice a week you are expected to be prepared to comment on all assigned materials and readings. If a class meets three times a week or more, students are expected to comment on all assigned materials and readings on at least two out of the three meetings. Here are some general guidelines for class participation, grading, and the general attributes of class participation. You should, of course, always refer to your syllabi for specific information on class participation and related requirements.
A Student comments in class on assigned materials and readings during every class meeting. Student always makes connections between and among various readings and assignments. Student comes prepared with written comments or questions and helps motivate class discussions.
B Student comments in class on assigned materials and readings during most class meetings. Student comes prepared with written comments or questions. Student makes connections between and among readings.
C Student often comments in class on assigned materials and readings. Student sometimes comes prepared with written comments or questions.
D Student rarely comments in class on assigned materials and readings. Comments are limited and center on content (e.g., “What does this word mean?,” "What is a sonnet?," etc.) rather than demonstrating the initiative to do preliminary work required to complete the assigned readings for class discussions. Student often appears unprepared when called upon to comment.
F Student does not comment or participate in class. There is no evidence that student has completed the assigned materials and readings.
Commenting in class on assigned materials and readings usually involves writing short summaries in your own words about the texts and assignments in question. From these summaries you should be able to see emerging patterns and connections between readings and assignments. As these broader patterns and connections emerge, you will be able to formulate relevant comments and questions.
Another advantage of the liberal arts setting in that your professor is there to guide you to better refine your reading, your writing and your intellectual development. Always take advantage of office hours in order to reach and meet the course goals as well as your own broader development as an intellectual.