Should Class Participation Be Graded? Perspectives on History (2023)

A generation ago, teaching history was primarily lecture based, but now the prevailing wisdom among teaching experts is that class discussion promotes more active, engaged learning. The byproduct of this pedagogical shift has been the growing tendency across the humanities to designate a percentage of the grade for participation, and I have seen this range from 5 to 45 percent of the grade. Despite this hefty proportion, there are no clear disciplinary standards for evaluating participation, and there exists great disparity between how professors interpret and implement it.

A useful starting point is to think about the purpose of participation in our teaching. By posing questions and inviting debate, we seek to get students to think about, and not merely passively ingest, the material we present. Students are a captive audience in our classrooms, held in what may very well be an endangered space, within a culture increasingly oriented around multitasking and hyper-stimulation.2 This makes it even more imperative in our teaching to train students to focus and engage in informed discussion of texts free from distraction. We hope students will turn off their cell phones and PDAs for a brief period and subject themselves to the larger questions that drive America’s place in the world, shape our identities and our political, cultural, and social pasts. Ideally we want our students to respect, and treasure as we do, a place where they can work through their ideas collectively and safely (despite the heat it may generate).

(Video) The Impacts of Social Class: Crash Course Sociology #25

Peter Filene, in his book The Joy of Teaching, examines different models for discussion that range from a “recitation” (a directed Q&A review of the readings) to the other extreme of an unbounded, open-ended “conversation.” The former may be fruitful to assess student competence and reinforce key material while the latter grants students free reign to explore texts in the direction of their own interests. There may be times when both are appropriate, but for most of us, the ideal is somewhere in between—a “seminar” style—in which we serve as facilitators for a more directed conversation, with moments when we refocus the group and encourage deeper analysis, and other times when we step back and allow students to grapple with material on their own.3

Assigning a specific share of the grade for student participation makes it very clear to students that they are integral to the learning process, and we assume, provides incentive for them to contribute. Curious about what my students thought, I surveyed about 20 master’s students and 80 undergraduates over two semesters, and asked: Does having participation count toward your grade encourage you to participate more than you would otherwise? Amongst both undergraduate and graduate students, about 40 percent said “yes.” This number was substantial enough to renew my commitment to this type of evaluation, but it also reminded me of the creative work I need to do to reach the other 60 percent.

(Video) Differentiating Instruction: It’s Not as Hard as You Think

Critics of grading participation in the assessment had some revealing insights. One graduate student wrote, “When I know that it counts I try to get my 2 cents in (however silly my comment may sound). But when it doesn’t count I’m more likely to be confident in my participation.” An undergraduate similarly commented that it “brings down the level of discussion.” We need to consider whether we are giving our students incentive to speak for the sake of it or to speak when they can make a valuable contribution. One undergraduate called it “a poor incentive.” “It irritates me; everyone contributes in his/her way. You are always going to have ‘the talkers’ and ‘everyone else’.” Another student commented, “People who are shy will always be shy.” By rewarding the “talkers” with high participation grades, are we privileging certain personality styles and putting more introverted students at an unfair disadvantage? At the same time, while it is easy to distinguish the effective speakers, how can we recognize students who are thoughtful “listeners”? A student of mine several years ago told me that he did not often speak in class because he was fascinated by what his peers had to say. Discussion enables students to get exposed to diverse perspectives, and if they are actively processing these ideas, is that not “participation”? The problem is that listening is more difficult to measure (and can be easily faked), but perhaps we can consider certain indicators as evidence of engagement, such as forward posture, eye contact, nodding, or taking notes.

In formulating our criteria for evaluation of classroom participation, we need to think about the circumstances that may inhibit participation—language barriers, cultural differences, shyness, public speaking anxieties, and socioeconomic factors that may diminish our students’ sense of their own value in contributing. For example, teaching at the University of Massachusetts at Boston, an urban public institution, we have many entering international students who find themselves in one of my introductory sections, often to fulfill general education requirements. These students in my experience tend to be more reserved, as many of them are unaccustomed to the learning culture and some struggle with English. Several shared with me their desire to participate, but contend that by the time they have framed a comment in their minds, the discussion has moved on. If we require participation, then we need to create a flexible and supportive learning environment that meets the different needs of all of our students.

(Video) FTX's leaked financials, $AMZN ramps up healthcare interest + Swayed Founder Arjun Shokeen | E1541

Each semester, my syllabi get more explicit. In defining how students can earn participation points (which, of course, changes depending on course level and format), I make clear that I define participation qualitatively, not quantitatively. A shy student, for example, might muster up the confidence to speak twice during a whole semester, while speaking multiple times per session might be the norm for a “talker.” The best way I have found to account for these differences is to hear directly from students about their expectations for speaking in class. Midway through the course, I require students to do a self-evaluation of their class participation and give themselves a grade. This can be very useful in (1) making sure my expectations have been clearly conveyed; (2) initiating fruitful conversations about creating a respectful space for sharing ideas; (3) gauging reactions from students about the variety of ways they can participate and which ways are working; and (4) ascertaining their comfort levels while at the same time motivating them to participate more. Typically students assess themselves fairly accurately or slightly overvalue their participation. In the occasional instance when students assign themselves a much lower grade than they deserve, it alerts me of the opportunity I have to help them recognize and appreciate their intellectual worth.

We can maximize student participation by providing alternatives to traditional ways of measuring participation that acknowledge different personality and learning styles. Web-based technologies, such as discussion boards or blogging, offers students a way of contributing without public speaking and through a means that has become increasingly comfortable for our students (even if not for all of us). Moreover, small, peer-group discussions (or peer reviews of written work) may relieve the pressure for more reserved students to contribute in meaningful ways. In-class writing, or posting questions ahead of time, also facilitates greater interaction. I am currently experimenting with assigning my students a technique often used in teaching English composition: “double-entry notes.” Working at home, students select two quotes from the assigned readings, copy them, and write a paragraph explaining the significance of each quote to the author’s argument and why they chose it (students turn these in upon entering class, giving me a few minutes to glance at them). This helps foster more informed discussions, as students are already equipped with specific evidence to back up their assertions, and it enables me to bring in ideas from less vocal students whose written insights I can highlight and validate as important. Sometimes in class I have students write a “one- or two-minute paper” in response to a discussion question. This exercise often improves the quality of comments from the chatty students (who may not always think before they speak), and at the same time enables other students (and in particular English-language learners) to compose their ideas in time to participate. Invariably, this technique brings voices into the discussions that are not typically heard.

(Video) KBF Launches Zambia Must Prosper Political Party & aims dig at HH - "IT IS TIME TO FIX THE FIXER"

In surveying students about different teaching formats for learning history, I was struck by how many students associated lecture with learning historical “facts” and discussion with debating different interpretations. Despite our efforts in our lectures to expose students to different perspectives and interpretive approaches, the very mode of communication reinforces perceptions of studying history as an exercise in memorization. It is when we get our students to do the work of formulating historically important and relevant questions and recognizing how historical documents speak to those questions in multiple, and often complex ways, that we truly make historians out of them and hopefully energize them to appreciate the dynamism of history as a field of study.

—Bonnie M. Miller is an assistant professor of American studies at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. She is currently completing a book manuscript on visual and popular culture in relation to theSpanish-American War.

(Video) August 22, 2022 Clinical Reasoning VMR with Dr. Gurpreet Dhaliwal & Dr. Mohit Harsh - AMS

Notes

1. I am grateful to Lois Rudnick for her invaluable editorial suggestions.

2. I want to thank Judith Smith for helping me appreciate what is distinctive and important about teaching in this cultural moment.

(Video) Dr. Fauci Quits - Drinkin' Bros Podcast 1088

3. Peter Filene, The Joy of Teaching: A Practical Guide for New College Instructors (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005), 56–60.

FAQs

How do you evaluate participation in class? ›

How do I assess participation?
  1. Keep written records. You need to develop a system that works for you. ...
  2. Consider the students' self-assessments. You should provide your own written feedback on their self-assessments. ...
  3. Use peer evaluation.

What is the importance of class participation? ›

Class participation is an important aspect of student learning. When students speak up in class, they learn to express their ideas in a way that others can understand. When they ask questions, they learn how to obtain information to enhance their own understanding of a topic.

What affects class participation? ›

The study found five factors that influence students' classroom participation: linguistic, pedagogical, cognitive, affective, and socio-cultural factors.

How do you define class participation? ›

Participation of students in classroom settings is an important feature of quality learning and teaching. Class participation encompasses many ways in which students meet formally in non-lecture formats to discuss, complete tasks, or demonstrate knowledge gained from readings and lectures.

Should participation be graded? ›

Participation should not be graded. While the buffer of a participation grade may be advantageous to some, it might not be the case for others. Discussions might be imbued with repetitive comments or more introverted students finding it more difficult to speak up and consequently getting a lower grade.

How can we measure participation? ›

The two instruments closest to solely involve items on participation level are the Perceived Handicap Questionnaire (PHQ) and the London Handicap Scale (LHS). The PHQ is measuring the perception of participation.

What are examples of class participation? ›

This might include involvement in face-to-face activities such as seminars, discussions, debates, group work activities, experiments, simulations or placements. Participation in online activities such as discussions in chatroom, posting on bulletin boards, online forum or webinars could also be taken into account.

Why is classroom interaction and participation important for learning? ›

Interaction is needed in the classroom activity. It helps the teaching and learning process run smoothly and it can increase learners' communicative. It tells how the students have interaction among them and teacher even with the whole class.

How do you encourage class participation? ›

3. Create an Atmosphere That Encourages Participation
  1. Be respectful.
  2. Speak loud enough so everyone can hear.
  3. Listen to classmates.
  4. Don't interrupt who is speaking.
  5. Build on your classmate's comments with your comments.
  6. Use participation to not only answer questions but to seek help or ask for clarification.

How does participation in class affects learning? ›

Students who participate in class have studied the material well enough to introduce new concepts to their peers. This level of thinking goes beyond simple comprehension of text, and can also improve memory. Participation can also help students learn from each other, increasing comprehension through cooperation.

How does participation affect academic performance? ›

Students also saw a direct correlation between participation and an improvement in their grades. 72% of those surveyed felt that an increase in classroom involvement would lead to academic improvement.

What possible reasons could there be for the student's lack of participation? ›

Why Students Struggle With Class Participation (And How To Help)
  • They Fear Saying The Wrong Answer.
  • They Don't Think They Have Anything Valuable To Contribute.
  • They're Unprepared.
  • They Fear Public Speaking.
26 Nov 2018

What factors determine your decisions in class participation and behavior? ›

Numerous studies have been conducted on the factors that influence classroom participation. Fassinger (1995) indicated that these factors include classroom size, fear, the perception of faculty authority, student preparation for class, and confidence.

Why do teachers want participation? ›

Participation provides the teacher feedback—When students answer or try to explain, teachers can see the extent of their understanding. They can correct (or help the students correct) what the students haven't got right or don't see quite clearly.

Should we stop grading class participation? ›

We suggest that teachers stop counting class participation as part of a student's grade—a move that not only increases transparency about actual learning but also acknowledges introverted students. We realize that this approach may challenge assumptions.

What percentage of your grade is participation? ›

Yes, there are often other ways of collecting grades used in conjunction with participation, but participation can be worth as much as 35 percent of a grade in some classes.

What are participation points? ›

A participation point is a member of an injection group. It is a generator, load, switched shunt, bus, or another injection group that participates in, or contributes to, the output of an injection group.

How do you measure social participation? ›

Social participation has been measured through subscales within generalized scales of activity such as the Late Life Function and Disability Index (LLFDI) and the Assessment of Life Habits (LIFE-H) questionnaire.
...
  1. charities.
  2. voluntary workers.
  3. hrs trial.
  4. social participation.
  5. weight measurement scales.
30 Aug 2018

How do you assess community participation? ›

MEASURES OF COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION
  1. diversity of participants/organizations,
  2. recruitment/retention of new members,
  3. role in the coalition or its activities,
  4. number and type of events attended,
  5. amount of time spent in and outside of coalition activities,
  6. benefits and challenges of participation,
21 Apr 2006

What are the types of participation? ›

Sarah White distinguishes four forms of participation: nominal, instrumental, representative and transformative.

How social interaction affects academic performance? ›

The findings reveal that students in all three courses perceived that social interaction improved their learning by enhancing their knowledge of literacy and teaching and their critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Do cultural dimensions affect classroom interaction and learning outcomes? ›

Yes, cultural dimensions strongly affect classroom interaction and learning outcomes.

Why should teachers encourage interactions among learners? ›

Classroom interaction stimulates the student involvement in the classroom. It fuels student motivation and help the students see the relevance of teachers' topic. It increases participation as all students are involved. The interaction can be between the teacher and the students.

How do you encourage quiet students to participate? ›

Encourage and Support Shy Students in Your Class
  1. Remember They're Not Doing This on Purpose. ...
  2. Start with Non-Verbal Communication. ...
  3. Let Them Move at Their Own Pace. ...
  4. Use Positive Reinforcement. ...
  5. Learn Their Triggers. ...
  6. Avoid Labeling Them. ...
  7. Create Safe Spaces With Friends. ...
  8. Give Them a Job.
8 Jun 2022

What is an active participation strategy? ›

Active participation is the consistent engagement of the minds of all students with that which is to be learned. The following strategies must utilize the key attribute that every student must show their signal, card, slate, etc. at the same time.

What technique is most effective in encouraging participation of attendees at meeting? ›

Conversational turn-taking allows people to take turns to speak up. Everyone gets a chance to share their ideas. Ensure that quiet people go first and leaders (and loud ones) last.

What is good classroom participation? ›

Participation is evaluated using the following scale: 10 points Student comes to class prepared; contributes readily to the conversation but doesn't dominate it; makes thoughtful contributions based on the literature that advance the conversation; shows an interest in and respect for others' contributions; participates ...

What are the benefits of participation? ›

Benefits for adults could include but are not limited to the following:
  • feeling in control.
  • having a sense of dignity.
  • feeling connected to others in the community.
  • developing relationships.
  • increased independence.
  • increased self-awareness.
  • greater levels of physical activity.
  • increased self-esteem.

What are the disadvantages of class discussion? ›

Disadvantages of Whole Class Discussions
  • Students are often Intimidated to Speak Up. It can be difficult to get some groups to engage in lively discussion. ...
  • Not all Students get a Voice. ...
  • Differentiation is Difficult.
9 Feb 2021

Why do student athletes get better grades? ›

Vigorous exercise improves blood flow to the brain, thereby improving alertness and intellectual functions, such as thinking and learning, decision-making and processing information. Compared to sedentary students, physically active students are 20 percent more likely to earn top marks in math, science and English.

What are the 4 classroom rules? ›

Classroom rules
  • Ask questions.
  • Respect and listen to your classmates.
  • Respect and listen to the teacher.
  • Raise your hand to speak.
  • Be prepared for class.
  • Be quiet when the teacher is talking.
  • Be quiet when classmates are talking.
  • Share new ideas.
6 Mar 2019

How does the participation of students on extracurricular activities affect their academic achievement? ›

According to Brown (n.d.), student participants in extracurricular activities had better grades, had higher standardized test scores, higher educational attainment, attended school more regularly, and had higher self-concepts.

What will be the most effective way of dealing with non participative students? ›

What will be the most effective way of dealing with non-participative students? Let them do what pleases them. Refer the matter to the Guidance Counselor. Employ engaging and enjoyable activities.

Why students are not participating in discussion? ›

Students' individual styles or personalities may inhibit their participation. Students' cultural values and norms may inhibit their participation. Students may not have experience participating in discussions. Students may not have the general background knowledge to participate.

What types of environmental factors would cause students to not want to participate in activities in the classroom? ›

Schools' open space and noise, inappropriate temperature, insufficient light, overcrowded classes, misplaced boards and inappropriate classroom layout all make up factors that could be confounding variables distracting students in class.

What affects class participation? ›

The study found five factors that influence students' classroom participation: linguistic, pedagogical, cognitive, affective, and socio-cultural factors.

What were the most common issues raised on students performance? ›

Academic concerns, which might include issues such as learning difficulties or disabilities, underachievement, lack of attention from teachers, and bullying, affect a number of students throughout their academic careers, from elementary school to college.

What are the factors that affect the academic performance of students? ›

Students' academic performance is affected by several factors: students' learning skills, parental background, peer influence, teachers' quality, and learning infrastructure. State and federal education officials collect graduation rates as a baseline measurement of secondary education performance.

Can teachers grade on participation? ›

Class participation shouldn't be graded. The main reason is that what counts as class participation is usually only speaking aloud. While talking is an important way to be an active member of your class, not everyone is comfortable speaking in front of a group of people.

Why is participation in class so important? ›

Class participation is an important aspect of student learning. When students speak up in class, they learn to express their ideas in a way that others can understand. When they ask questions, they learn how to obtain information to enhance their own understanding of a topic.

How does participation in class affects learning? ›

Students who participate in class have studied the material well enough to introduce new concepts to their peers. This level of thinking goes beyond simple comprehension of text, and can also improve memory. Participation can also help students learn from each other, increasing comprehension through cooperation.

How do you measure classroom participation? ›

How do I assess participation?
  1. Keep written records. You need to develop a system that works for you. ...
  2. Consider the students' self-assessments. You should provide your own written feedback on their self-assessments. ...
  3. Use peer evaluation.

How can a teacher encourage learner participation in class? ›

One of the most effective ways to encourage students to participate is to let them discuss in small groups, and varying the structures of these discussions both empowers students to take ownership of their learning and allows teachers to assess student understanding in real time.

What are examples of class participation? ›

This might include involvement in face-to-face activities such as seminars, discussions, debates, group work activities, experiments, simulations or placements. Participation in online activities such as discussions in chatroom, posting on bulletin boards, online forum or webinars could also be taken into account.

What are examples of class participation? ›

This might include involvement in face-to-face activities such as seminars, discussions, debates, group work activities, experiments, simulations or placements. Participation in online activities such as discussions in chatroom, posting on bulletin boards, online forum or webinars could also be taken into account.

How can a teacher encourage learner participation in class? ›

How to Encourage Participation in Your Classroom
  1. Find Out Why Students Don't Participate. ...
  2. Show Students Their Fears Are Unfounded. ...
  3. Create an Atmosphere That Encourages Participation. ...
  4. Give Students Another Outlet.

What are examples of active participation? ›

1.1 Examples of active participation in learning
  • give students the opportunity to talk.
  • listen to students.
  • encourage students to ask questions.
  • use a variety of different approaches to learning in their teaching.
  • link new ideas to students' experiences and lives.

How do you encourage participation in activities? ›

10 Tips for Increasing Participation in Activities
  1. Listen Carefully. Be patient and take the time to listen. ...
  2. Foster Friendships. ...
  3. Involve Relatives. ...
  4. Issue Invitations. ...
  5. Engage the help of Volunteers. ...
  6. Promote Exercise. ...
  7. Initiate Regular Meetings for Special Interest Groups. ...
  8. Offer Drumming Lessons.

How does participation in class affects learning? ›

Students who participate in class have studied the material well enough to introduce new concepts to their peers. This level of thinking goes beyond simple comprehension of text, and can also improve memory. Participation can also help students learn from each other, increasing comprehension through cooperation.

Why do teachers want participation? ›

Participation provides the teacher feedback—When students answer or try to explain, teachers can see the extent of their understanding. They can correct (or help the students correct) what the students haven't got right or don't see quite clearly.

What is the best approach to be used to motivate students to actively participate in class? ›

Peer-to-Peer Options

One of the most effective ways to encourage students to participate is to let them discuss in small groups, and varying the structures of these discussions both empowers students to take ownership of their learning and allows teachers to assess student understanding in real time.

How do you increase participation in the classroom? ›

Articulate ground rules for participation and discussion. Use variety in the way you structure your classroom or learning activities. Incorporate active learning activities or change things up every 15-20 minutes to draw attention to issues and content you feel are most critical.

What are barriers to active participation? ›

The most common reasons adults don't adopt more physically active lifestyles are cited as:
  • insufficient time to exercise.
  • inconvenience of exercise.
  • lack of self-motivation.
  • non-enjoyment of exercise.
  • boredom with exercise.
  • lack of confidence in their ability to be physically active (low self-efficacy)

What are advantages of active participation? ›

Benefits for adults could include but are not limited to the following:
  • feeling in control.
  • having a sense of dignity.
  • feeling connected to others in the community.
  • developing relationships.
  • increased independence.
  • increased self-awareness.
  • greater levels of physical activity.
  • increased self-esteem.

What are the principles of active participation? ›

Active participation has two key principles underpinning care: the rights of the individual and the independence or autonomy of the individual. The individual is encouraged and shown ways in which they can help themselves develop, be healthier or recover from illness.

How do you encourage quiet students to participate? ›

Encourage and Support Shy Students in Your Class
  1. Remember They're Not Doing This on Purpose. ...
  2. Start with Non-Verbal Communication. ...
  3. Let Them Move at Their Own Pace. ...
  4. Use Positive Reinforcement. ...
  5. Learn Their Triggers. ...
  6. Avoid Labeling Them. ...
  7. Create Safe Spaces With Friends. ...
  8. Give Them a Job.
8 Jun 2022

What are three 3 strategies that can be used to encourage children to participate in new learning experiences? ›

Encouraging Kids to Participate
  • Get to the root. Start a discussion with your child so you can uncover what might be holding him back. ...
  • Be a role model. If you sit on the couch most of the weekend, your child won't be inspired. ...
  • Gather a group. ...
  • Pair up siblings. ...
  • Start slowly. ...
  • Give them an out. ...
  • Dig deep. ...
  • Go with them.
30 Jun 2021

What are the 4 classroom rules? ›

Classroom rules
  • Ask questions.
  • Respect and listen to your classmates.
  • Respect and listen to the teacher.
  • Raise your hand to speak.
  • Be prepared for class.
  • Be quiet when the teacher is talking.
  • Be quiet when classmates are talking.
  • Share new ideas.
6 Mar 2019

Videos

1. Dr. Fauci Quits - Drinkin' Bros Podcast 1088
(Drinkin' Bros Studios)
2. Debating skills - Introduction
(HUB Scuola)
3. Don't Put People in Boxes
(NewHope Church)
4. How Does Social Change Happen?
(Pearson)
5. Why Finland's schools outperform most others across the developed world | 7.30
(ABC News (Australia))
6. College and University Tips: Class Participation
(The College Confidant I Student Strategy & Advice)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Dong Thiel

Last Updated: 12/26/2022

Views: 5932

Rating: 4.9 / 5 (79 voted)

Reviews: 86% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Dong Thiel

Birthday: 2001-07-14

Address: 2865 Kasha Unions, West Corrinne, AK 05708-1071

Phone: +3512198379449

Job: Design Planner

Hobby: Graffiti, Foreign language learning, Gambling, Metalworking, Rowing, Sculling, Sewing

Introduction: My name is Dong Thiel, I am a brainy, happy, tasty, lively, splendid, talented, cooperative person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.