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This issue of CDTL Brief features articles on Collaborative Learning and Other Methods of Meaningful Student Engagement, including discussions on combining experiential learning with community service to enable service learning, giving students the chance to exercise their critical thinking skills by letting them build their own mental frameworks for a module, and a reflection on the merits as well as challenges of assessing class participation.

September 2010, Vol. 13 No. 1 Print Ready ArticlePrint-Ready
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Grading Class Participation
Associate Professor Ravi Chandran s/o Thiagaraj
Department of Business Policy

This paper addresses various issues relating to class participation and its grading based on my personal experiences.

Some advantages of class participation

Though some scholars have raised reservations about grading class participation (Jacobs & Chase, 1992), it is widely practised at NUS and many other universities. I too have incorporated such a component in the courses I teach and in my opinion, grading class participation serves many useful functions. It forces students to think, often spontaneously; it allows the instructor to know whether the students are following him; it makes the class more interactive and hence more fun and enjoyable; and it builds confidence and helps students learn how to express themselves—a valuable skill in the real world. It also forces students to be better prepared for classes, especially if the instructor practises cold calling. In addition, it tests the students over an extended period of time as compared to, for instance, the final exams. In a survey I conducted in Semester 1, AY 2009/2010, 96.2% of 182 students felt that class participation was important for reasons such as those mentioned above, regardless of whether it was graded or not. Thus, the students themselves are beginning to see the value of class participation.

Should class participation be graded?

However, out of this 96.2%, 4% felt that though class participation was important, it should not be graded. Given that our students are highly motivated by grades (Marzano et al., 1988) there will certainly be less participation if class participation is not graded. Further, in light of this, giving a low percentage (e.g. 5%) for class participation, would not, in my opinion, act as a sufficient incentive. Thus in the courses I teach, class participation accounts for 20% of the final grade.

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Inside this issue
The Collaborative Learning Model
Merging Service, Teaching and Problem-Based Learning in a Hands-on Design for Sustainability Course in Industrial Design
Grading Class Participation
Reframing Mental Models: A Different Approach to Summarising A Module