Students should not be graded based on their participation

Students in high schools across the country are graded on their participation in classes.

Creative Commons

Students in high schools across the country are graded on their participation in classes.

By Anna Kronthal, Assistant Opinions Editor

“You are expected to participate in class discussions.”

At the beginning of nearly every school year, teachers preach this expectation to students along with the usual mentions of kindness, work ethic and class rules. But, does it really belong on the course syllabus? Should the amount of times a student raises their hand in class have the power to change your grade?

Schools across the country factor student participation into grading with the aim to encourage student involvement in the learning process. However, forcing students to participate does the opposite.

If a student knows the answer to a question and feels comfortable with sharing their answer to a room full of their peers, they will raise their hand. Calling on students involuntarily to speak forces them out of their comfort zone, humiliates them and thus encourages fear of class participation. It leaves students praying their name will not be called on and avoiding eye contact with the teacher. It leaves them hoping that the teacher will choose the classmate with their hand elevated in the air over the student nervously pretending to shuffle through papers. But of course, the teacher will ask for “someone we haven’t heard from yet.” Instead of rewarding the students that volunteer, teachers pick on the ones that don’t.

Whether it be socratic seminars or colored popsicle sticks with the name of each student written out in sharpie, teachers want students to answer questions. They want to check for understanding. They want insight. However, under participation grades, the joy of answering a question right fails to motivate this participation. The threat of lowered grades does the job.

Whether or not a student chooses to raise their hand does not represent their intellect, understanding or progress in a class—what grades are said to be based upon.

For educational systems that use equality for every student as the foundation of their curriculum, making participation grades gives certain students a clear disadvantage. What about the students with social anxiety?

If teachers want to check for general understanding of a topic, they can give out a quiz. If teachers want to call on students for answers, they can ask the students that have their hands raised. If teachers need another grade for the gradebook so desperately that they will force participation, they can just give out a graded worksheet.

Every reason for issuing participation grades has an alternative option that will not induce fear in students. Grades and the extent of one’s participation in class should not be correlated. Participation grades are unfair, unnecessary, and redundant.