many disciplines, students' classroom activities help them learn and demonstrate
their mastery of such skills as analyzing, summarizing, evaluating, supporting
opinion, and developing logical arguments. If a discussion section is
part of a larger course, participation grades must be a significant part
of the course grade if students are to take section work seriously (see
"Preparing a Course"). Yet grading class participation can be
difficult. To avert misunderstandings, share with students your evaluation
method based on standards as objective as possible. This sample scale
comes from a course based on the case method:
Present, not disruptive.
Tries to respond when called on but does not
Demonstrates very infrequent involvement in
||Demonstrates adequate participation: knows basiccase
or reading facts, but does not show evidenceof trying to interpret
Offers straightforward information.
Does not offer to contribute to discussion, but
contributes to a moderate degree when called on.
||Demonstrates good preparation: knows
reading facts well, has thought through implications of them.
Offers interpretations and analysis of case
materials (more than just facts).
Contributes well to discussion in an ongoing way: responds to other
students points, questions others in a constructive way, offers
and supports suggestions.
||Demonstrates excellent preparation: has analyzed case
exceptionally well, relating it to readings and other material.
Offers analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of
material, e.g. puts together pieces of the
discussion to develop new approaches that take
the class further.
Contributes in a very significant way to ongoing
discussion: keeps analysis focused, responds very thoughtfully to
other students comments,
contributes to the cooperative argument-building, etc.
(Adapted from Maznevski, 1996.)
with other aspects of their progress, students need to know how you rate
their participation. Some students worry unnecessarily and need reassurance
that they are doing well. Others need to know what to do to improve. (For
details about individual problems, see "Interacting with Students.")
Give students their participation grades about a month into the semester,
and suggest improvements. A form such as the following one will be helpful:
Your participation grade in class so far:
improve this grade, follow the suggestions checked below:
___ Come to all classes.
___ Volunteer when you have a chance.
___ Show that you have prepared the text or lesson well by offering
good questions or comments.
___ Push yourself 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'
"Whose Course,"p. 95)
take into account different personalities and learning styles. Students
who are less verbally adept may need to begin by answering factual questions,
learning from you and other students how to express and defend opinions.
Your most successful discussion classes are not necessarily those in
which all students perform admirably; you also want to see students
improve their discussion skills.
believe that learning is a communal activity. In the undergraduate
classroom especially, interaction is vital. Students learn best when
they engage in genuine conversation, both among themselves and with