Class Discussions and the Scholarly Community

By: Hayley Billet

Classroom settings and course work serve a much greater purpose than to simply provide students with assignments and a final grade. The ideas that are discussed in the classroom help students make connections that will serve them in the future. It helps them form the foundation for the arguments used in their theses as well as synthesizing many important ideas that will guide them in scholarly communities. Classroom learning is about both knowing the content and knowing how to work with (think with and through) the content. 

Classes are meant to guide students through their areas of academic interest and beyond. It is also meant to help students learn about their fields of interest. In both these ways, students are exposed to the breadth and depth of content and theories within the discipline, understanding which theories are used by whom to build arguments. Through the work produced for classes, students can revise their research into something to present at a conference that specializes in their area of interest or something to submit to a journal that is based in their field of interest. Again, the breadth and depth help students understand where their research aligns with contemporary conversations, so they are prepared to present at conferences.  

Graduate courses are meant to mentor graduate students and prepare them for future success, graduate courses invite students to join the scholarly community. This starts in the classroom and through the professors that initiate and provoke these crucial conversations. After all, professors serve as another foundational element that will help students and push them to be better scholars. Whether or not that happens will be up to the individual student. 

It is up to the students to learn from this information and push themselves, using what they have learned in the classroom, to help them succeed in their future careers and interact with others in the scholarly community. It is expected that graduate students develop and refine their writing and critical thinking skills, often on their own in addition to coursework. Their writing is meant to propel them into their future career pursuits and academic choices. The skills graduate and undergraduate students use in scholarly communities are learned and refined in the classroom. Undergraduate students are expected to discuss and build upon their existing prior knowledge of academic topics. Undergraduate students activate prior knowledge (APK) in the classroom, and in doing so discover and develop their academic and scholarly skills.  

English and World Languages graduate students are expected to use their writing as a tool for success. Graduate school is an opportunity for students to strengthen their professional and creative writing skills. This will help English and World Languages graduate students become better writers and learn to establish themselves in professional settings. They are able to draw from their academic work and classroom conversations and use that to help them interact in scholarly communities and solidify themselves as successful academic scholars. Getting along with other colleagues in the scholarly community and maintaining academic conversations in these fields starts in the classroom.  

The value of building many ideas, having academic conversations (the back and forth of a discussion), and synthesizing these ideas and experiences together is crucial in helping graduate students reach their full academic potential and apply these learned experiences in the classroom to the real-world of academia. It is important that graduate students understand the connections between what they learn and discuss in the classroom and the scholarly community. Not only are they both important to ensure student success, but they also help to strengthen graduate student’s critical, professional, and creative skills. This synthesis of ideas can also be applied to the success of undergraduate students as well. Undergraduate school is concerned with teaching students professionalism and helping them learn how to apply their pre-existing knowledge and sets of skills. This will help them become better academic scholars and get them thinking about their role in the scholarly community. 

By taking what they have learned in the classroom and applying it to the scholarly community, graduate and undergraduate students can begin to establish themselves scholars. Graduate school is meant to introduce students to their field of interest and allow them to begin engaging in professional organizations, conferences, and publications. Undergraduate school is concerned with teaching students professionalism. They each serve an important purpose. The conversations they will have with others in the scholarly community will call back to the conversations they have started in the classroom.  

Classroom conversations serve as the foundation that helps graduate and undergraduate students prepare for conversations with others at conferences, in professional settings, professional organizations, etc. Not only does it serve to build their confidence, but it also serves as a gateway to more important conversations in the scholarly community.