Rethinking Student Participation

When we think of student participation we typically think of activities such as students asking and answering questions during class or participating in group work. But there are a variety of reasons this may not be suitable, whether for reasons related to the course material or student characteristics. For example, first generation students (first in their family attending college) and international students may not inherently know the expectations in a university course. Therefore, it is important to think of participation as several different types of engagement and communication. Specifically, student to student, student to content, student to professor, and student to self.

What is participation? Multi-directional flows of communication, engagement, and collaboration.

  • Student to Student
  • Student to Content
  • Student to Professor
  • Student to Self

Strategies for assessing participation:

  1. Exit Slips
  2. Journals
  3. Blackboard Discussion Boards
  4. Required to Meet- office hours
  5. Find and Share
  6. Explicit Instructions
  7. Differentiate Assignments

Sample Syllabus Language

Expectations for Course Participation 

I view participation as a multidirectional flow of collaboration: student-student, student-professor, student-content, and student-self. I will be looking for evidence of participation in each of these facets of your work. What this means is that there are many opportunities for you to engage in the course. Engaging with our course means not only that you will learn more (as the old adage goes, what you put into something is what you get out of it), but also your chances of success increase dramatically. I want each of you to succeed; below are some ways to accomplish that. Some examples of participation include (but are not limited to):

Student to Student:

  • You collaborate with your peers, meaning that you fulfill your duties and exceed your partner’s expectations.
  • You work together during in-class collaborative activities. You actively contribute new ideas or refine what you originally proposed.
  • You attend class.
  • You use your device (if you are using one) responsibly and do not use it to complete other non-course-related tasks (i.e. sending emails, using social media, etc.).

Student to Content:

  • You complete all of the readings for the week prior to coming to class.
  • You say something in our in-class discussions.
  • You introduce a new idea into our class discussions.

Student to Professor:

  • You meet with me during office hours.
  • You send me an email asking a clarifying question about the course or ask for my feedback about an idea.
  • You send me an article that you found that directly relates to what we discuss in class.

Student to Self:

  • You reflect deeply in your journal entries by responding to the provided prompts.
  • You make connections between this course and your other courses, internship, career, etc.