[dropcap]Here’s[/dropcap] a collection of five different participation policies. I encourage you to use them to stimulate thinking and conversations about how a participation policy's content and tone can influence learning and classroom climate. Which policies work best—given the course, its content, the instructor, and the students? The objective is to use these examples to stimulate reflection on participation policies, in general, and on your policies, specifically.
There’s a set of questions at the end to encourage more reflection, discussion, and analysis. Please feel welcome to share one of your policies in the comment box.
Participation Policy 1
You are expected to participate in this course. Participation counts. In the case of borderline grades, having a history of regular participation will work in your favor.
Participation Policy 2
Participation is required in this course. I call on students to keep everyone attentive and to see who’s done the reading. Being able to speak up in a group is an important skill that will serve you well throughout your life. Besides, we can all learn from each other. Participation is worth 5% of your grade, and it will be assessed at the end of the course.
Participation Policy 3
Your participation is welcome and rewarded in this course. I will regularly ask for your opinions, ideas, and experiences. I ask because what you think is important and because hearing what others think can be a way for you to learn. If you regularly volunteer and contribute something when you’re called on, 50 points will be added to your point total in the class. The points are awarded for your willingness to speak. Points are not taken off if your answer is incorrect or if you disagree with something in the text or something I or someone else said in class. Please keep in mind that we all need to speak to each other respectfully, even when disagreeing.
Participation Policy 4
Participation is not graded in this course. You have the right to remain silent. I hope you won’t and I’ll be doing everything I can to encourage you to join the conversation, but I won’t call on you unless you volunteer. It will be a long, boring semester if mine is the only voice you hear. Hearing only my voice bores me as much as it does you, so I’m asking you to help me make this an interesting course. I don’t grade participation because I want students to speak when they have something to contribute not because they need to say something to get points. I don’t want students worrying about whether their answer is right or their comment is good. I hope you’ll make mistakes so that we can all learn from them. Learning to speak up in a group is a skill that you’ll need throughout your life. In this course, you have the opportunity to develop that skill without any grade pressure. I hope you’ll take advantage of the opportunity.
Participation Policy 5
Participation counts for 15% of your grade in this course. Here are the behaviors that count: asking questions, answering questions, making comments, and constructively disagreeing with something in the text or said in class by me or another student. Value-added behaviors that will earn you extra points: comments that relate to material in the text, sharing relevant experiences, responding to something another student says (including answering a question they ask). Here are the behaviors to avoid: not listening, pretending to be listening while texting or surfing the web, speaking without being recognized, making fun or otherwise berating something said by another person.
May I call on you? Send me a note letting me know if I may, or if you prefer to only volunteer.
Here’s how your participation is graded: Every day after class I write down what I remember that students contributed during class. I don’t get everything but I do recall most contributions. Every day after class (or during) you should write down what you contributed—the questions you asked, the answers you gave, the comments you made, etc. At midterm, I’ll ask you to send me an email that lists the dates and the contributions you made. I’ll compare your record with mine and send you an email indicating what grade you’ll likely get if you continue participating as you have to date. I’ll also make some suggestions for improvement. At the end of the course, I’ll ask you to send me a second note that summarizes your contributions across the course. You can say what grade you think these contributions merit. I’ll respond to your note with the grade and my feedback.
Questions to ask yourself or to discuss with others
- Which policy aligns most closely with your thinking about participation?
- Which policy would you not use? Why?
- Do these policies reveal something about the teacher? If so, what?
- Do these policies offer hints as to how the course will be run? If so, what do they hint at?
- What, if any, learning objectives do each of these policies advance?
- If you were a student, would any of these policies motivate you to participate? If so, which one? Would any of the policies discourage your participation? Which one and why?
- Does the content of a course have any bearing on the features of a participation policy?
- Does the tone of the policy matter? If so, how? Can you point to examples in these policies?
- Which of these policies most effectively develops speaking skills? Thinking skills? Encourages students to listen and respond to each other?