>Bob: Deciding on a Participation Index

>After teaching some corporate students, and reluctant to hand out school-type “grades” but still needing something, I developed the idea of a “Participation Index” to have a measure of how involved the student was in the training. This experience gave me a different viewpoint on grades.

At my college I had one student who came on the first day of class and again for the final exam. I promptly forgot him after seeing him the first time and wondered who he was when I saw him the second time. The class monitors keep track of attendance. Now I have the class monitors also keep track of attendance in my Excel spreadsheet. At the most basic level, if the students are in class they are (hopefully) going to learn something. The idea is to show their “participation”.

Class Interaction
But still some students are doing some other homework, reading something else, chatting with their neighbors, etc. Are they learning during this time? No. (Perhaps they already know. In that case it probably should be OK for them to do something else if it doesn’t disturb others.) The idea is not to punish students but to show their “participation” in the lesson. Some MBA course instructors give scores up to 40% of the students’ grades for “airtime”, visibility acquired on basis of class participation. In “Alternative Approaches to Assessing Student Engagement Rates”, Elaine Chapman at The University of Western Australia describes several ways of measuring participation and I’m thinking of using the one she describes as “Direct Observation”.

I have 160 students and sometimes hand out homework with each class. So I usually see if the students did the homework without seeing how well they did it. The idea is that applying themselves to the work is beneficial for their learning whether they got it all correct or not. We then go over the questions and answers together and everyone self-corrects.

I want to use quizzes more effectively and more frequently to see if the students are “getting it”. When I haven’t done this I’ve been surprised how many students really didn’t understand (or pay attention).

To measure the take-away from the training. I’m having lots of other thoughts on this. While the school course teaches things like how to read the corporate year end report, I have found a lot of my students go out after graduation and get jobs as Nokia phone salespeople in a discount department store or other sub-entry level job. It is likely that a lot of what they learned is lost well before they get a chance to use it. I am thinking about not only not testing their comprehension of corporate reports but steering the course away from that sort of thing and focusing more on English that they will have more hope of using soon. If they don’t use it they’ll lose it. But to help them keep it we should teach what they’ll use.


6 Replies to “>Bob: Deciding on a Participation Index”

  1. >I’ve been enjoying your posts for a few months now. Good work! 2 quick points:1) I found this link by Christine Coombe http://exchanges.state.gov/forum/vols/vol42/no1/p18.htm talking about portfolio marking, and plan to try it out in my EFL high school situation in Japan. 2) I’ve had tremendous success with a simple visual grid with student names on it this year. As soon as they saw me recording participation checks next to their names, hands shot up all year.Cheers,Stevejapanactionresearch@blogspot.com

  2. >Hi again,The courses are “Oral Communication” (about 20 students)and therefore there is a premium placed on communicating. I welcome questions, follow-ups, and comments on what I or other students say in class. I also semi-regularly elicit error corrections and attempt to give non-verbal types the chance to collect points through written efforts. Whenever students participate they get credit for that. The students are told that their tests make up 60-70% of their grade and their classmark is 30-40% depending on the class.Cheers,Stevejapanactionresearch@blogspot.com

  3. >So how do you actually calculate their scores. What percentage does participation play in the score? What other elements go into the “classmark”?Dave

  4. >Hi Dave,Of course, there are many ways to calculate a classmark. From objective formulas to subjective opinions, the classmark idea evolves depending on the class. Say a typical class has a 30% classmark. I first present the classmark idea to a class and explain my belief that learning should be a goal throughout the course, not just for the tests. Some components of the mark can include: how many diaries they hand in (graded at 1 or 2 points each), how many participation *s they accumulate next to their name on my seating chart, how actively I’ve noted that they participate in pairwork and groupwork, how much effort I see and feel them making in class, etc. The calculation can be general (pick a class average, say, 20/30 and mark each student up or down from the average. It can also be specific, i.e. using excel and breaking the classmark into various columns. I have used both systems. The whole classmark concept rests on the premise that you must get to know your students. I’m always trying to find ways to connect with them inside and outside of class. Each time I get to know them a little more, it pays dividends in terms of classroom interaction, a friendly study environment and hopefully learning opportunities.Stevejapanactionresearch@blogspot.com

  5. >Interesting. So what is your actual formula for calculating the scores? For example, the last set of end of term scores you handed out, how did you calculate those?Dave

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