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This story is one of three that we’re featuring on the question of class participation.

But what happens when the teacher includes “class participation” as 25% of the grade?

Student A might have received a 90 on the final comprehensive exam or project, which assesses content and skills.

Or maybe Student A received a 65 but, due to constant participation in class, benefited from a boost to her grade.

When a grade combines evidence of learning with class participation, its meaning is distorted—not only for students, but also for teachers, parents, and institutes of higher education.

If grades should primarily communicate student achievement, how is one grade that includes participation and achievement to be clearly interpreted?

We suggest that teachers stop counting class participation as part of a student’s grade—a move that not only increases transparency about actual learning but also acknowledges introverted students.

We realize that this approach may challenge assumptions.

Many of us have encountered grading policies during our K-12 schooling and higher education where up to 25% of a grade rests upon participation.

At the highly regarded Harvard Business School, “participation often accounts for 50% of the total course grade.” Why might including participation as a portion of a student’s grade be tricky and particularly difficult for introverted learners? A classroom participation grade generally rewards students who are active communicators.

Sometimes, it even includes a teacher’s perception of students’ behavior.

It may help teachers to “manage” the class and perhaps compensate for students who struggle in other areas; thus, the student who works hard, but continues to fall short on tests, may find a grade increase when class participation factors in.


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