Is it fair to grade classroom participation?


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There’s little doubt that students will learn more when they engage in classroom discussions. So for many teachers, finding ways to motivate students to participate in class makes complete sense.

For years, Jim Lang (Assumption College) did this with a class participation grade. The English professor says he tried to keep track of each student’s class participation to boost a grade (for example, a B to a B+) but not penalize students.

However, Lang is now advocating against the idea of grading participation.

“It just didn’t feel right,” says Lang. “Grades are really supposed to measure something we can document. Like the learning of the student.”

Lang admits that grading participation made him uncomfortable with nudging grades around in an informal way. He also didn’t love the idea that students were rewarded for talking.

“There are other students that might be engaged just as thoughtfully in class, through the way they took their notes, though the way they participated in group work.”

Recently Lang published “Should we stop grading class participation” in the Chronicle for Higher Education. He also joined us on Class Dismissed to explain how he maintained widespread class participation while moving away from grading it.

“Rather than make participation something that is optional and can be graded. What I argue instead is that participation should be the norm,” says Lang.

In Episode 232, listen to how Lang makes this happen. Hear our full interview on the Class Dismissed Podcast on iTunes or your favorite podcasting app.

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