Carnegie Mellon University

Eberly Center

Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation

Class Participation Policy

In creating a policy/description of your expectations regarding student participation, consider the following components:

  • Will you assess student participation, and will this assessment contribute to the student’s final grades? If so, how much?
  • How will yourthe attendance policy interact withaffect yourthe participation policy? Will students be penalized twice for one absence? If student participation is assessed, can students make up their participation asynchronously or in other ways?
  • In what ways will students’ participation be measured (e.g., in-class oral contributions, short in-class writing assignments, online discussion posts, etc.) and how will you assess these contributions (e.g., number and/or quality of contributions to class discussion, quality of online discussion post, etc.)? How will you share your expectations and/or assessment approaches with students, so they are best informed to meet them? 
  • If you are assessing student participation, how and when are students made aware of their participation grade? How and when will you share feedback on students’ participation (e.g., at or before mid-semester), so students can learn and adjust?

A few notes regarding participation policies:

  • Generally speaking, student participation should not constitute more than 10-15% of the student’s grade.
  • If you are going to assess student participation, be sure to have a metric for assessment and to share this metric with students. Some faculty use a simplified participation rubric to articulate the different levels or qualities of participation.
  • As with any assessment, provide students with feedback on their participation grade before the end of the semester so that students have the ability to improve.

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Sample 1: Participation policy from Political Science

Our time in class is the opportunity to actively engage with the material we are exploring. Participation during class is crucial because it is an important avenue for learning. I encourage you to be active in every class session. This participation grade serves as a way to credit you with the effort and work you are putting into the class in and out of the classroom. However, I understand that we all have different levels of comfort regarding speaking in class. Participation will thus be counted as speaking to the whole group, in smaller groups, and completing in-class activities. If you are fully engaged in at least two of those three activities, you will earn full points. Only participating in one of those activities will earn you half of the participation points for that day. If you are not participating at any of those levels you will not earn points. I will communicate your grade to you every week. I encourage you to contact me so we can find ways to make participation work for you in this class. Any class missed will not impact your participation grade as long as you are within your allotted absences. If you have to miss beyond the 4 classes, please email me as soon as possible to discuss ways to help you participate in classroom activities asynchronously as appropriate.

Sample 2: Attendance and participation policy from Business

Based on Frenkel Terhofstede, Tepper School of Business
Marketing I
Attendance and Participation Policy

“Class Presence and Participation. Class presence and participation points are given to encourage your active class participation and discussion.  You will be rewarded with a perfect score as long as you frequently come to class and actively contribute to the class discussion during recitations and lectures.

Presence:  Although it is not required, most students send their professor a brief e-mail to explain their absence in advance.  Students who repeatedly arrive late to the lecture or recitation will be eligible for 80% of the participation grade.  Please sign the attendance sheet when you come to the class.  Any false signatures will result in zero participation grades for all parties involved.

Participation:  We will devote one entire session to the case discussion.  The instructor’s role during a case discussion is that of a moderator.  When the cases are discussed, we are less concerned with “right” or “wrong” answers than we are with thoughtful contributions which follow the discussion and either add to the debate or move it in a new direction.  If you find it uncomfortable to speak up in class, we encourage you to visit your professor in office hours and work on this skill.”

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