The Challenge of the Class Participation Grade/Course Evaluation

One  of the challenges I have as a teacher is assessing “class participation” for students.  I’ve tried a number of methodologies, including:

  1. A subjective assessment of up to 30 points, based on student’s participation in collaborative learning exercises (like whiteboarding) and labs.
  2. Scoring engagement with up to five points a day that included homework submitted/work submitted on time, actively engaged in class by raising your hand, etc.

Both of these approaches are subjective.  And the second one, I didnt find manageable at all.  I think I made it through about a month and that was the end of that.

In terms of the course evaluation, some teachers use a series of questions with a 1 to 5 scale.  I’ve tried a short survey with “what did you like about the class?”, “what were your challenges?”, and “what can I do to help you?”  These didn’t particularly work either.

This semester I decided to merge the two.

Approximately one month before the end of the semester, students receive the evaluation form as a Google Doc.  Separately, I made some notes about their strengths and weaknesses, along with other observations, and I gave them a generic “participation grade.”  That grade, totally subjective.

The evaluation questions were:

  1. What successes did you have in this class first semester?  Use three sentences or less.
  2. What strategies did you use to ensure success?  Use three sentences or less.
  3. In what areas were you challenged in this class?  Use three sentences or less.
  4. What strategies did you use to deal with those challenges?  Use three sentences or less.
  5. How can I assist you in either ensuring success or overcoming challenges second semester?  Use three sentences or less.
  6. What one project or class assignment from this semester are you most proud of or that resonated with you the most?  Use three sentences or less.
  7. Describe your work ethic outside the class.  Use three sentences or less.
  8. Describe your work ethic in class.  Use three sentences or less.
  9. Describe your ability to collaborate with your peers (both in class and out).  Use three sentences or less.
  10. Describe how your success in this class reflects your mastery of the material.  Use three sentences or less.
  11. What grade would you give yourself for student engagement this semester?   (Note: choices – 95, 90, 85, 80, etc).
  12. Justify your grade in less than three sentences.

Some interesting themes emerged.

  1. Almost without exception, the student’s view on their strengths and weaknesses matched my observations.
  2. Almost without exception, the student’s engagement grade matched my engagement grade for them.
  3. Students liked being given a voice in their “participation grade.”
  4. I gleaned a lot of information about what worked and what didn’t work in class.
  5. Students were evaluating my performance without realizing that was what they were doing.

Their evaluation score counted for 75% of their student engagement grade (5% of their semester grade) while my evaluation score counted for 25%.

The survey also gave me a lot of information in writing their end of the semester comments!

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