Assessing Participation

An article in Faculty Focus looks at an interesting approach to assessing discussion participation, one that has the potential to be effectively adapted for the large online classroom. The article proposes to have students decide how they will choose to participate in a course (i.e., be called on or volunteer) and then track their semester’s participation. The adapted approach involves encouraging appropriate posting behavior and defining how students will submit a report of their online participation for a grade.

Proposed approach to participation. The article provides a description of this approach to participation (excerpted from a syllabus) that can be adapted for an online course’s discussion boards. Using this model, an instructor would define the required number of posts and comments per discussion board topic, as well as what types of posts and comments add value (and those that do not). At the end of the semester, students would submit a report that details the contributions they made, which would then be graded.

In a large online classroom, the volume of discussion board posts make reading and grading students’ contributions a challenge. Having students report their semester’s posts and comments allows instructors to reward substantive and active contributions, ultimately improving all students’ experience of that element of the course.

Student benefits beyond the grade. As the article explains of this approach, developing the ability to add to and sustain a discussion is key to professional success. Adapting the article’s approach to participation allows students in both on-ground and online courses to develop this important skill set.