I’ve always struggled with calculating students’ participation grades. I have experimented with rubrics for students to fill out for themselves or ways for them to track their participation grades daily or weekly. I’ve tried ditching it altogether and just grading students for distinct speaking activities.

Often, I settle for making up a participation grade for each student at the end of the period. I tend to criticize myself for this imprecise method but this time, I had an idea. What goes through my head when I “make up” this grade? I thought. If I could just find a way to put that down on paper for my students to understand:

I was really satisfied when I created this product. The grades I often calculated in my head were based on two big categories that create a push-pull effect:

  1. how well and often a student contributes to the group’s learning, and
  2. how well they manage their own conduct so as not to disturb the learning process.

We all know students who contribute so much to discussions and group work but also struggle to manage their behavior, sometimes disrupting as much as they contribute. I also know students who have no trouble managing their behavior but who are extremely reluctant to contribute to discussions, group, or partner work. Both of these students end up with a mid-level grade (a C of some sort). The C doesn’t explain this huge distinction though. This tool helps me and the student reflect and communicate about what he or she is doing well and what to work to improve.

I shared this with my classes and had students self-evaluate by putting a dot on the continuum where they thought they were on each side and taking an average of the two. I then had each of them do this for one randomly-selected classmate. (I overheard some golden conversations between students during this activity: “Yeah, he behaves and does mad work but he never raises his hand! Think about it. X never talks in discussions.”)

I reviewed the papers that night and found that students were quite honest and accurate. I initialed if I agreed with the students’ self-evaluation and I made adjustments with notes and signed my initials, if I felt necessary. I haven’t yet decided what to do with the peer evaluations.

Overall, I’m quite happy with the process and the results! Feel free to use or adapt: download calculating participation grade.

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