Counting Participation in the Philosophy Classroom


Do you grade your students on their in-class participation? How do you do it?

This was the subject of a post here five years ago. The topic resurfaced in an email I recently received from a philosophy professor and associate dean looking for good practices on the topic, and it seemed worth revisiting. He writes:

We’re currently looking at various assessment regimes we’ve come across that involve significant weightings for active student engagement in classroom discussion and other interactions, and how these can be designed to accurately and fairly assess the acquisition of philosophical skills and dispositions (of the kind philosophy programs commonly claim to be developing in their students). If such assessments require attendance as an obvious baseline, it’s the quality of participation that is being assessed rather than attendance as such. We’re looking for assessment transparency but without overthinking it, or tying it up with unhelpfully burdensome rubrics etc. it would be very interesting to see what other philosophers (and/or philosophy departments) do in this area.

It would be helpful to hear about whether you grade student participation in your philosophy class, how you do it, what steps (if any) you take to make sure you’re doing it accurately and fairly, how significantly a student’s participation grade factors into their overall course grade, and so on. How, if at all, have you modified your practices in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and in light of the accompanying increase in online teaching?

Additionally, if you’re aware of any empirical studies on the correlation between class participation and the quality of student outcomes in terms of knowledge retention and understanding, the development of core philosophical skills competencies, or overall student experience, please let us know about them.

Related: “Did I Miss Anything? On Attendance

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