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What do you think about Grading Classroom Participation?

Grading classroom participation has its advantages. It can promote connection, community, and interest in a lecture. Grading classroom participation also encourages students to show up and come prepared for class. In all, classroom participation solves some of the challenges of teaching large class sections, but there are still some problems.

Opponents believe classroom participation can be used as a “fudge factor.” According to a study by Bean and Peterson (1998), “our informal discussions with professors, however, suggest that most professors determine participation grades impressionistically, using class participation largely as a fudge factor in computing final course grades.” For this reason, many assessment experts who value reliability and consistency of grading are not fans of classroom participation.

What About Introverts?

Introverts may be challenged to participate in class. Although data suggests introverts outperform extroverts academically, is it fair to penalize quiet students who have a better grasp of the material compared students who are vocal? This Ted Talk by Susan Cain on the power of introverts challenges the societal emphasis we place on being an extrovert.

Proponents of classroom participation make persuasive arguments. In an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education by Brian Croxall of Emory University, “Teaching is hard no matter what you do, but experience shows me that it’s a lot more difficult to do when students aren’t ready to respond or interact. Grading their participation is a stick to the carrot of learning that helps the students stay engaged.” In large lecture halls where students can hide out or not show up, classroom participation can undoubtedly help.

“Teaching is hard no matter what you do, but experience shows me that it’s a lot more difficult to do when students aren’t ready to respond or interact. Grading their participation is a stick to the carrot of learning that helps the students stay engaged.”

Similar Themes Across Grading Classroom Participation

Guidance from Teaching and Learning Centers at several major universities have overlapping suggestions on grading classroom participation. Some the themes include:

  • Providing clear advice and rubrics to students on how grading classroom participation will be calculated in students’ final grades.
  • Stressing quality of what’s said over the quantity of the participation of a student.
  • Encouraging active record keeping for grading classroom participation in every lecture; otherwise, credit becomes arbitrary or as some fear a “fudge factor.”
  • Cautioning instructors not to assign too much credit to classroom participation due to its subjectivity.
  • Developing alternative methods of allocating classroom participation for shy students.

Andrea Novicki of Duke University shared grading classroom participation best practices from Dr. Elizabeth Bucholz, Instructor in Biomedical Engineering. “Class participation included clicker use, participation in Piazza, and asking questions and presenting solutions to problems in class. The diversity of ways to participate gave students several paths to success. Because Dr. Bucholz chose to include in-class participation only, students who are more comfortable talking in class would get higher grades than those who participate less. Instead, students who preferred not to talk in class contributed to Piazza and received participation credit.”

Although not without its problems, classroom participation makes a class interesting and engaging resulting in increased student satisfaction and more in-depth learning. Please feel free to share with us your ways of grading classroom participation by tweeting us at GradeHub.

 

Happy Grading,
Mark Espinola
Founder + CEO of GradeHub