Visualizing Class Participation

Class participation is a simple concept, but it can sometimes be difficult to define both to your students and to yourself when grading.

I am an introvert, and see myself in many of my students. Just because they don’t talk out loud during discussion doesn’t mean they aren’t paying attention. Quiet students might give more feedback during peer review, while talkative students might not participate as well in group work or with in-class writing.

I used to struggle to figure out how to grade my students’ participation. Depending on the class, participation can range from 10-35% of a student’s final grade and it doesn’t seem fair to ding the quiet students on points for not talking when I know they’re paying attention and doing the work. In an effort to better understand how I evaluate class participation, I created the following diagram that I also distribute to my students.

This particular diagram breaks down class participation in my composition courses into four main parts: in-class writing, group work, discussion, and peer review. The arrows point to what I expect students to do and to gain from these interactions. I present this to students at the start of the semester to explain my expectations and explicitly refer back to this at least twice during the semester, usually before when mid-term and final grades are due. 

I have my students write self-evaluations on their participation, rating themselves on a scale of 1-10 and explaining their choice (you can find an example reflection handout here). Most students are aware of their performance and give accurate points and explanations. This helps both students and myself better understand that portion of their total grade, my expectations, and their experience in my class. It also gives them some agency as it lets the introverts have a say and asks those who talk a lot but don’t engage with other activities to reevaluate their interactions. 



Teaching Assistant at University of Illinois at Chicago |

Hannah Green is a PhD student in the Program for Writers at the University of Illinois at Chicago. While a creative writer by nature, she’s a teacher at heart and enjoys teaching writing in all its forms including composition, professional, technical, and creative writing. Her research interests include the place of the asylum in narratives of mental illness, the literature of Southern Africa, and oral storytelling. Her creative writing appears both in print and online in places such as The Rumpus, PANK, and McSweeney's. Hannah is also the Editor-in-Chief of During Office Hours.


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