Grading Class Participation

Last year I taught an advanced course in psychology using a discussion seminar format. I wanted class participation to count toward students’ grades, but I did not want to give students points just for speaking. I wanted the grades to reflect the quality of their contributions.  My solution was to have students use a rubric to evaluate the quality of their own class participation at the end of each week.

We created the rubric as a class. I had students examine the following three class participation rubrics I found online:

Using these examples as the starting point, the class and I developed our own rubric.

Each week, students explained how many points they thought they deserved on each element of the rubric. Using the students’ explanation and my own recollections of class, I determined the number of points the student actually received.

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Filed under Collaborative Leadership

Argument Mapping

Part of being able to evaluate an argument is being able to identify the elements and structure of the argument.  What are the claims?  What evidence is provided?  What assumptions are made?

An argument map is a visual way of outline the structure of an argument. Aulink provides six tutorials about creating arguments maps at Each tutorial presents both information and exercises so students can learn and practice argument mapping. Auslink is trying to sell their argument mapping software, but you don’t need to purchase anything to use and benefit from the tutorials.

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But Is It Scholarly?

Teaching students to identify appropriate sources for research papers includes teaching them the difference between scholarly and popular sources.  It is tempting to tell students the difference between the two, but a more effective method is to show them a scholarly and a popular source about the same topic and have them identify the differences.  Having students generate the differences gets students more actively engaged and leads to better understanding and longer-lasting learning.

S.O.S. for Information Literacy provides ideas for teaching a wide number of different information literacy topics.  The lesson plan “But Is It Scholarly?” describes one way of teaching students how to distinguish scholarly from popular articles.  It also includes suggestions of pairs of articles you can use in your own course.

If you have suggestions for other pairs of articles, please post a comment and provide the citation information for the two articles.

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Filed under Information Literacy

Peer Review for Drafts of Oral Presentations

I just read about a great idea for giving students feedback on oral presentations in the free newsletter from Faculty Focus.  Lora Helvie-Mason, Ed.D. evenly divides her students in the four corners of the room.  In these small groups, students then take turns doing their presentations for their small audience.  The audience members offer feedback.  She does this activity one week before the final presentations are due.  As with peer reviews of writing, you can determine the criteria for students to use in their evaluations.

For more details, read Helvie-Mason’s article about this technique.

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Group Processing

Consider these two course characteristics in your Collaborative Leadership courses:

  • provide ongoing individual or group feedback on the collaborative leadership process
  • ask students to reflect on growth in collaborative leadership skills and dispositions
You can do both of these things at the same time by having students engage in group processing at the end of each group session.  Rather than letting students finish their task and walk away, have them spend a few minutes discussing what each group member did to contribute to the group’s work and setting a goal for their future work together.
Students can provide each group member with positive feedback about whatever that individual did best in contributing to the group.  Alternatively, students can focus on what they did well in a particular domain: contributing ideas, active listening, checking for understanding, etc.
Group processing is an important part of cooperative learning.  To learn more about cooperative learning, visit

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Helping Students Learn to Organize Their Writing

This week offers the second installment of one-hour workshops on the WC learning objectives with “Ways to Organize Your Writing.” Many students struggle when they’re asked to go beyond the five-paragraph essay structure. We know that they’ll need strategies for the range of kinds of writing that they’ll need to do, and this workshop is designed to give them some of those strategies.

So please encourage your students to try out  the free workshops on Tuesday (at 3:30) and Wednesday (at 3) in Dunn 203, or stop by yourself.

In next few weeks, we’ll discuss evidence and support, audience, and sentence-level editing. So if you want some new tools to help you with your writing at Simpson and beyond, drop by.

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Filed under Upcoming Events, Written Communication