I have always included a participation grade in my upper year geography class, because I highly value the contributions that my students bring to the class environment. In addition, the skills they develop by participating in class are not only key for deep learning, but it’s also the skills that help them to be good colleagues and community members in their time after university.
However, participation has always bugged me a lot, from an assessment point of view. I used to keep an intense set of check-marks and meticulously watch students, writing down my observations of their contribution quality and quantity. But, how am I the best person to make a judgment about their participation? How can I ensure that my judgments are fair? How can I recognize diverse ways that students contribute to the class environment, including in ways that I cannot see?