Students' Participation in Discussions
A. Barnett, Director, TRC, and Department of French
telling comment came from a second-year student participating
in a focus group commenting on my French course last May: "All
my classes have a percent for participation, but you never have
a clue, like whether that's a joke or not. But, early in the
semester, [the teacher] gave us an indication of what our participation
grade was, an idea of what to work on. So you knew that she
was really paying attention. So we knew that it actually mattered."
was referring to the form I use to let students know both what
grade they have so far earned for their participation in discussions
and what they need to do to improve that grade. (For information
on how to grade participation, see "Grading Class Participation"
by Martha Maznevski, Asst. Prof. of Commerce.). People
work harder when they know that their work is noticed and when
they learn how well they are doing. It takes just a few seconds
per student to complete individual forms; I distribute these
about a month into the course and then again, if necessary,
a month later. Whenever students see their current grade and
my suggestions, their participation improves perceptibly for
the next several class meetings.
participation grade in class so far: ______
can you improve this grade? Follow the suggestions checked
Come to all the classes.
Volunteer when you have a chance to.
Show that you have well prepared the text or the lesson by offering
good questions or good comments.
Push yourself a bit by trying to say something more difficult,
analytical, or imaginative than usual.
Comment via e-mail in a more detailed and analytical way.
Try to move the discussion forward by responding to your colleagues'