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.


  1. I have a different case (I teach EFL and I am the teacher so I can have whatever scale I want) but I do share the attendence issue. I take role at 5 past the house (so for 10:00 clases 10:05, if you are late you can see me after class and if youir reason is acceptable (normally it is) I'll give it to you. If you don't...I won't. It is that simple.

    As far as participation grades I have stduents fill out a survey halfway through on what they think their grade should be

    Then I respond to their thoughts (why they're right, how they can improve, etc.) It seems to work well

  2. Thanks, Carissa. The semester after I wrote this I followed those two policies. I took roll and allowed the students two opportunities to see me after and get counted (after that they'd need to see me in office hours). And I gave them two surveys on participation grades, one midway through, one right before the final grades. Both did seem to work pretty well.


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