The best way to encourage attendance and participation in your class is to make class meetings interactive and engaging for students. If you intend to require attendance or participation, you should be very clear about your expectations and how these factors will impact the final grade. How will you track attendance? How do you define ‘participation’? More importantly, why are you grading attendance and/or participation? How do these contribute to student learning? To address the issue of grading attendance and participation, make sure that the assessment policy is carefully spelled out on the class syllabus. You may also consider the following recommendations that are based on discussions from CTL luncheons:
- Rather than counting ‘attendance’ simply by a student’s presence in the classroom, have students engage in some learning activity. For example, students can be given very short writing assignments (“quick writes”) at the beginning or end of class, assignments that would assist them to focus upon the topic for the lecture, ask them to summarize a text or lecture, or ask for comment on a reading. Assignments could be collected and roll taken in that manner (see the page on formative feedback for additional resources).
- Faculty who use Blackboard or another classroom management tool can relate the participation grade to the number of responses students make to discussions on line.
- If attendance or participation are required, be sure to define what constitutes “acceptable” reasons for absence and put that in the syllabus. Even better, consider building in mechanisms that allow some flexibility for legitimate absences, such as dropping some percentage of the scores at the end of the semester.
See the following links for additional guidance:
- The University of Washington has an excellent discussion of grading student behavior versus student learning
- Carnegie Mellon’s Eberly Center Participation Rubric
- Teach Philosophy 101 advice for grading participation
- Participation rubrics from Villanova University faculty