Pedagogy

Cons of Participation Grades 4

Continuing my previous post (which I unfortunately must do in installments due to my schedule) here is another common criticism of grading participation.

4. Classroom management shouldn’t be a part of grading.

This view is quite common among teachers who follow certain schools of thought in teaching. It has three assumptions built in.

First, that things related to class management are clearly distinct from other things we grade.

While this is sometimes true, there are many subjects and situations in which classroom management and curriculum overlap. Let me highlight a clear example of this very situation. In the aforementioned article, the author even agrees with a comment describing this very thing, with neither person realizing it undermined the argument it was presented to support.

Bogatz states in his article (titled Can We Please Stop with the Participation Grades?) “Student behavior is a classroom management issue, not a grading issue. You should never find management strategies and solutions in your grade book.”

One of the comments (sandra) describes her role as a music teacher “I can’t know how well they understand a new concept if they don’t demonstrate how much they know. If the student shows the skill we are learning (“active participation”), and makes noticeable effort to achieve and improve, their grade will be absolutely satisfactory. Sitting motionless when asked to move, chatting or playing with trinkets, or refusing to sing, play games, or instruments will be considered less than satisfactory. […] Do they need to comply and follow instructions? Yes. But not “because I said so,” because that is how you demonstrate the acquisition of skills in the performing arts.”

Bogatz replied that he loved the story and comparison, but both of them seemed to have missed the implication. In cases such as this, “participation” and classroom management were directly related to the subject skills the teacher needed to assess. Refusing to participate in a music class is simultaneously a classroom management issue and a grading issue, for the simple reason that participation is the only means through which certain skills can be assessed.

A second assumption that is built into this claim (we shouldn’t grade participation because classroom management shouldn’t be a part of grading) is the idea that participation always relates to classroom management.

Similar to the example above, in the case of a performance-based class, participation is tied in with the skills involved in the subject. Even if one agrees with Bogatz’s claim, there is no reason why a participation grade must be a tool of management.

The third assumption is the statement itself.

I did not set out in this post to debunk Bogatz’s blog post, but it happens to exemplify the very things I aim to discuss here. When he made the claim “Student behavior is a classroom management issue, not a grading issue,” he did not go on to provide evidence or reasoning to support it. It was presented in the same way that I usually see teachers present it, as if it is an obvious statement that does not warrant any argument or justification.

In my own experience as an education student, my classes on assessment addressed including classroom management. Largely, it’s a matter of individual / local school policy. My professors discussed better and worse ways to go about it, in case it came up in our future practices. My classes on classroom management likewise included ways in which grading could be used as one element of a well-managed classroom.

It turns out that there are some good reasons why some classroom management issues should be included in grading (which I will give in a follow-up post).

Finally, there is one more main argument against grading participation that is often brought up:

5. It is not fair.

(Yes, this must also unfortunately be addressed in a follow-up post.)

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Jay

Jay

Jay teaches English in Asia and loves skepticism and teaching above all else.

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