Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Grading participation/attendence

Since I'm currently a teaching assistant, I can't create my own participation/attendance grading policies. Typically, when I work with an instructor who grades "participation", I take attendance in my section and use that as a way to calculate an impartial number.

The problem is students who come in after I've taken attendance (which I do either by calling roll or by giving a short quiz that is only graded for completion). I make explicit on my syllabus that students, if they come in after attendance is taken, are responsible for talking to me after class and getting their name marked down. Every semester, I have students objecting that their participation grade is too low because "they were there." I do wind up post hoc marking students present if they give me evidence of their being in class, since the point of the policy is not primarily to mark late students as absent, but to motivate them to be on time.

I'm inclined to try using a sign-in sheet next semester. This, of course, means students might sign in their friends, but it would give me a record of signatures that I could point to when, inevitably, complaints arise.

Apart from tracking attendance, I see no way to have a baseline for a "participation" grade which isn't fraught with subjectivity on the part of my memory of student effort. In Socrates' Wake has a nice discussion here about attendance policies which emphasizes their role in getting some students to attend who otherwise might not.

I may also move to additional ways of grading for participation, including rewarding students that come up with questions for discussion of their own, or having occasional group-work that is for a participation grade.