Class Participation- What Exactly IS That?

We all know that “class participation” ranks high on the list of criteria for grading in art and design classes. What is astonishing is how many teachers simply state either in their syllabi or rubrics that “class participation” will count towards a grade, without explaining what they mean by that.

What most of them mean, unfortunately, is that they want/expect the students to speak up in class. And that’s it.

But where does that leave the “quiet student”? You know, the ones who rarely say anything, but who are clearly engaged in the class despite the fact that they don’t speak up. Grading “class participation” solely on whether someone has said something in class is very short-sighted, and can in fact be counter-productive because it encourages students who are talkative in the first place and intimidates those who are less verbal.

Broadening the definition of what constitutes “class participation” can get around this problem and be a fairer assessment of a student’s true engagement with the class. Here are some suggestions for what might be included in that broader definition:

• Volunteer during class.

• Do in-class exercises.

• Have in your possession the proper materials & equipment necessary to satisfactorily complete the work.

• Show initiative throughout the duration of the course.

• Be in class on time and prepared.

• Ask questions and comment on the subjects being discussed in class, both verbally and in writing,

• Participate in field trips.

• Do all homework as required.

Those points would provide a teacher with a far truer picture of a student’s actual participation in a class. So why not list them either on a syllabus or in a rubric to let students know that you value all those things and that they will be rewarded for exhibiting them?

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This entry was posted in Evaluating Student Work, Grading, grading in an inherently subjective field, grading individuals, Rubrics and tagged , , , , by Jane Alden Stevens. Bookmark the permalink.

About Jane Alden Stevens

Jane Alden Stevens is a photographer and educator who is Professor Emeritus of Fine Arts at the University of Cincinnati. An active artist, Stevens has exhibited and published her work extensively both in the US and abroad. She is the author of “Tears of Stone: World War I Remembered” (2004). In the course of her teaching career, Stevens taught courses in film, photography, and professional practices for fine artists. Her interest in teaching practices was deepened when she started teaching the "Graduate Teaching Workshop", a required graduate level course for fine artists and art historians that prepares them to teach the courses they will later be assigned. She was also involved in the Preparing Future Faculty program at the University of Cincinnati, which prepares masters and doctoral students across all programs for teaching at the university level. She has conducted pedagogy workshops for a variety of universities, as well as participated in academic practicum panels at educational conferences. The recipient of numerous teaching awards, Stevens was honored with the all-university Cohen Award for Excellence in University Teaching at the University of Cincinnati in 2002 and Professor of the Year honors in her college in 2011.

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