Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Participation grades hinder student success

Augustana allows professors to enforce their own grading system focusing on different classroom activities. For student participation, there should be a school-wide system for grading participation.

Some professors associate participation with attendance. In all of my classes, students are offered 2-3 absences that have no effect on attendance grades, labeled as “freebies” or “mental health days.” However, not every professor offers this option, creating confusion among students about these policies and how their grade may be impacted by attendance or participation.

These free days can be used for any reason that is not a collegiate sponsored event such as an athletic competition. Among the reasons students use these absences, family emergencies, illnesses or mental health days are the most common. 

If students miss more than the offered “free” passes, their participation grade starts to go down for each additional absence. I have gone to class sick just to avoid getting marked down in the gradebook, which is something students should not have to worry about.

“Freebies” are inconsistent across different professors on what they can be used for. Most professors do not include college-sponsored events in these absences because they are already excused; however, one professor I had counted my two athletic excused absences as my freebies, leaving me unable to miss classes for the rest of the semester unless I wanted my grade to suffer.

Students should be able to pass a class because they understand the material, not simply because they attend every day. There is also the fact that some larger universities do not take attendance or grade participation in classes, raising questions about the consistency of attendance and participation grading across campuses. 

Students pay tuition regardless of how much they attend or participate in classes, so not attending class should not impact their grades if they can turn in the assignments or pass the exams given in the class.

Likewise, if students choose to show up every day, but do not “participate” in the class, that should not negatively affect their grades either. The amount someone feels comfortable participating varies from student-to-student and if they are present in class, this should count for attendance rather than it being determined based on an instructor’s individual grading criteria, 

If participation is not directly connected to attendance, professors constitute students’ actions in class as participation. This is also somewhat conflicting depending on the class because different subjects do not require the same classroom style and are more interactive than others.

In my experience, participation in the classroom consists of raising your hand to answer or ask questions. If you are not the first hand up, or you get nervous to talk in front of the class, you will not earn the same amount of participation points as someone quick and eager to answer questions.

Another form of in-class participation takes place in group activities and discussions, which could create a safer environment for someone with anxiety as they are talking in front of a smaller group rather than in front of the entire class, but not every professor fosters this sort of teaching style.

Besides asking questions, some classes may rely solely on attendance because a lot of the class time is spent teaching and lecturing with not much opportunity for more interactive activities. 

In a general sense, every class offers students different opportunities for participation. It is not fair for professors to create their own policies about it because students suffer the consequences of a lack of consistency. Two professors can teach the same class and create different learning environments and consequent grade breakdowns for students, one being easier and one being harder.

Student participation at Augustana should not be such a large factor, as every student has different confidence to what degree they are comfortable participating in and it is graded inconsistently. 

To make it simple, there should be a school-wide system for grading participation and participation should not play such a role in impacting a student’s grade.

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