Grading (Anxious and Silent) Participation: Assessing Student Attendance and Engagement with Short Papers on a “Question For Consideration"

Teaching Philosophy 39 (4):483-505 (2016)
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The inclusion of attendance and participation in course grade calculations is ubiquitous in postsecondary syllabi, but can penalize the silent or anxious student unfairly. I outline the obstacles posed by social anxiety, then describe an assignment developed with the twin goals of assisting students with obstacles to participating in spoken class discussions, and rewarding methods of participation other than oral interaction. When homework assignments habituating practices of writing well-justified questions regarding well-documented passages in reading assignments are the explicit project of weekly class meetings, participation increases on the part of all students. My focus shifted away from concern that I must get students to talk more, and turned instead to ensuring their marks reflected their learning rather than their speaking. Students’ improved engagement as a result of the assignment bears out evidence in the literature for active learning and for alternatives to taking attendance and quantifying participation.

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Kathryn J. Norlock
Trent University

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