Sunday, October 30, 2011

How to get through a class that does not interest you

A student recently asked me for advice on this topic -- how to get through a class that doesn't interest you.

Five suggestions:

1. Figure out what you need to know. If you are taking a class that you aren't interested in, chances are you landed in that class for one of two reasons -- either it's a requirement or you needed an elective and this was the only one that fit your schedule. If the class is a requirement -- seems likely that there is something that you need to know as you move forward. So review the syllabus carefully and try to figure out what is important here and work hard on that material knowing it will matter later. Better yet, try to stay focused through the course and look for the connections -- how does this relate to what I need to know/want to do later both academically and professionally.

2. Connect the material to what you know. This will be more obvious if you are in a pre-professional program. For example if you have to take a leadership or ethics or organizational change class -- you will be able to connect it to your work experience, even if leadership or management isn't your field. If you are taking a humanities requirement or elective, this will be more difficult, but is still doable. Are there themes in the course that might serve as metaphors for challenges that you face in your daily life? Might this course help you understand the world just a little bit better?

3. Explain it to someone else. Talking through the material will push you to engage with it and make more sense of it.

4. Grade challenge. I'm not a big fan of this approach, but it works for some. If none of the above suggestions help you engage, then give yourself a grade goal and work hard to meet it.

5. Post-class or post-assignment rewards. Set small goals and rewards such as upon completion of the week's reading, you take a walk, or after handing in a paper you go to a movie.

I hope these suggestions help. Cheering you on in your work.


Photo by HLS


  1. I LOVE this topic Harriet -- one I bring up with students every term in the PLA program at Marylhurst. In my experience, students appreciate that we, as instructors, are sensitive to the fact that not all classroom experiences are created equal, and that there are strategies students can employ to ensure their learning is meaningful regardless of the classroom experience (I think the same can be said for instructors' experiences too!)
    Thanks for giving air time to this important perspective! Jackie at Marylhurst

  2. Hi Jacqueline, Thanks for your comment and for citing your own experience to reinforce the importance of this topic!


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