Classroom Participation Patterns: A Case Study of Malaysian Undergraduate Students

Siti Maziha Mustapha, Nik Suryani Nik Abd Rahman


ABSTRACT: This study aims to document undergraduate students’ patterns of participation in Malaysian classrooms. Interviews and observations were carried out. Around 85 students from two communication classes were observed over the period of two semesters (28 weeks). Most of the participants fell between the age of 18-19 years old (65.8%) and 66.7% of the participants were female, while 33.3% were male. Around 24 students from the two classes were interviewed. Four basic patterns of participation emerged from the data: (1) active participation, (2) selective participation, (3) minimal participation, and (4) passive participation. It was also found that students’ individual participation pattern could be influenced a myriad of factors, thus making their participation patterns flexible. This research demonstrated that the participatory roles students took in class could move along the participation continuum; from the most active to the least active. Recommendations are offered to promote students’ participation in the context of higher learning. Educators need to strive towards providing a more supportive, non-threatening, and open learning environment where students would feel comfortable in letting their voice be heard while knowing when to be quiet so they can reap benefits from both behaviours.

KEY WORDS: Classroom participation, participation patterns, undergraduate students, open learning environment, and participative behaviours.


About the Authors: Siti Maziha Mustapha is an Assistant Professor at the School of Communication and Language Studies KLIUCM (Kuala Lumpur Infrastructure University College Malaysia); and Nik Suryani Nik Abd Rahman is an Assistant Professor at the Institute of Education IIUM (International Islamic University of Malaysia). They can be reached at: and

How to cite this article? Mustapha, Siti Maziha & Nik Suryani Nik Abd Rahman. (2011). “Classroom Participation Patterns: A Case Study of Malaysian Undergraduate Students” in EDUCARE: International Journal for Educational Studies, Vol.3(2) February, pp.145-158. Bandung, Indonesia: Minda Masagi Press owned by ASPENSI in Bandung, West Java; and FKIP UMP in Purwokerto, Central Java, ISSN 1979-7877.

Chronicle of the article: Accepted (December 6, 2010); Revised (January 9, 2011); and Published (February 17, 2011).

Full Text:



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