Participation grades vs. assignments

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derrin:
I am wavering between giving a 10% participation grade or having my students hand in something each week in place of a participation grade for 10 or 15% of the final grade.  These are seminar students and, frankly, I do not like giving participation grades because they are so difficult to quantify.  If I ask my students to hand in something each week, what should it be and should I give them 10 or 15%?  I teach in the humanities.

glowdart:
What are you envisioning for a writing assignment?  A weekly critical precis or could justifiably be 20-25% of the grade, especially if the point of the course is to get them to engage critically with sources, but for a weekly one paragraph response or a quiz, I would go lower. 

You could always tack on a rider that they have to present their precis once or twice a semester or be ready to do so each day. 

proftowanda:
Quote from: derrin on January 20, 2013, 12:45:49 PM

I am wavering between giving a 10% participation grade or having my students hand in something each week in place of a participation grade for 10 or 15% of the final grade.  These are seminar students and, frankly, I do not like giving participation grades because they are so difficult to quantify.  If I ask my students to hand in something each week, what should it be and should I give them 10 or 15%?  I teach in the humanities.


Participation is so crucial to seminars, though, that it can be worthwhile to underscore that for students by including it on the syllabus and in the final grade formula.  That said, yes, it can be difficult to quantify, so also wise can be not allocating the entire participation grade to assignments but leaving yourself some room for that subjective evaluation at the end of each student's consistent and significant contributions to class discussion.  That is, not just talk, talk, talk and solely reacting to others' talk but, again, making significant contributions.

To emphasize that contributions come from preparation, rather than simply reacting, techniques can include having students turn in -- ahead of time is helpful, as in the day before on the CMS -- abstracts of readings or  questions for the discussion to come.  I have used both but have leaned toward the latter of late, again having the questions turned in ahead of time, and for classmates as well as for me to see.  That requires students to read classmates' questions already posted and avoid repetitious questions, which receive no credit.

As my seminars tend to have dual objectives to cover not only content but also methodology, I also have found it useful to require each student to post two questions on a reading, one on content and one on methodology used -- and I encourage them to also consider a third, "what if" question on an alternative methodology that could have been used and whether that could have resulted in different conclusions.  My students, when they reach the seminar level, tend to do well at summarizing content but need encouragement to consider more about methodology, especially varied methodologies, as they move toward not just consuming the research of others but producing it, themselves.

This is a good query, and I always look forward to responses that may help me to consider alternatives, too.

polly_mer:
Good news!  You can do both.  I make my science students submit the answers to bitsy reading questions and in-class reading quizzes, and I grade the students on participation.

For participation, I blatantly stole someone's idea (Egilson, maybe) about having index cards with students' names.  I put a date on the cards before I start class and use the cards to record tidbits for my own information (late, no book, staring at the ceiling instead of working with the group, volunteered to go first before start of class, insightful response).  After class, I spend a couple minutes looking at my comments and putting a number (0-10) next to the date for each student.  The notes help me record spectacularly good or bad while a string of 7's means the person routinely shows up and does nothing spectacularly good or bad.

This is an experiment this semester, but students have stepped up participation (most arrive ready to talk and most are at least pretending to pay attention when not speaking) over last semester just by seeing me occasionally make notes.

derrin:
I was thinking of having my students hand in a weekly one-paragraph response/discussion of the text.  Is this worth 10% or 15% of the grade?

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