Thursday, March 26, 2009

Grading on Participation?!?

Recently, I was asked to review a colleague's assessment plan for an entire curriculum. The assessment plan was to provide feedback to the learner about the skills that they had learned throughout different aspects of the program. 

There were three main components of this evaluation: participation, knowledge, and application. 

I completely agree that application should be measured. It is difficult to measure this with a multiple-choice test (as was proposed); I recommend performance checklists or performance observations instead. 

I disagree with pure knowledge testing in a corporate environment (which is the subject of a future post). 

Participation? I always shudder when my partner comes home each quarter from the first night of classes in her Master's program. She shares the syllabus with me, and the grading section usually catches my eye. Many classes include practical applications of the topics, including role plays, videos, analyses, etc. Without fail, however, class participation is listed as 5-10% of the final grade. I have two problems with this:
  1. Participation should be expected, not incentivized.
  2. Everyone participates in their own way. How do you measure this? Is the person that answers and asks a lot of questions participating more than someone who sits quietly, reflecting upon the information in class?
An instructional designer friend at a college mentioned that in their blended classes, the professors grade on online contributions (or participation). I suppose that it makes sense when you are trying to assign a letter grade and in order to have a thriving online class, people must contribute to online discussions. She said that professors, too, are evaluated based on how much participation their students display.

What do you think about grading on participation?