Stop Grading Participation

There once lived a young boy who tried really hard. He didn’t master the standards. He didn’t pass the class.

There once lived a young girl who didn’t work hard at all. She mastered all the standards in class. She passed.

Work ethic and participation have no place in a grading policy. A student should be graded purely on whether or not they learned the material required. This can be done via portfolios, tests, quizzes, essays, or a billion other ways. Grading a student on participation does them and you a huge disservice. You are believing the myth that if you work hard enough you can achieve anything.

You also believe that you can see past your own bias and viewpoint. How do you know how much a student participated? Where in the standards is participation? If it is one standard out of 10, 20, or 30 you are grading why is it worth so much weight?

Participation is an expectation.

If students are not participating they cannot demonstrate mastery of the standards. That is the issue. Find out why your students aren’t participating and fix your class, your teaching style, or your content.

How do we know who is participating? Ask them? Ask their teammates? Heart rate monitors? Does that tell the real story? It is a subjective process that is difficult to assess at best impossible to assess at worst.

Please stop telling our students that just doing something is good enough. They have to understand that learning is what we grade. Participation can be discussed and assessed but not graded.




3 thoughts on “Stop Grading Participation

  1. Pingback: The PE Playbook – October 2017 Edition – drowningintheshallow

  2. edifiedlistener

    This is provocative, Justin! And I appreciate the push to consider what is definitely common practice, certainly at my institution anyway. Participation appears on our elementary report card along with other life skills: group work and behavior. The grouping as life skills should make them distinct from physical skill areas: locomotor skills, object control, body awareness/control, and fitness development. So we’re offering grades (1-4) on 7 indicators. And even with all those, I am not satisfied with the level of useful communication to students & parents. Think: snapshots with a blurry focus. You can make out where a child might be particularly adept or struggling in terms of skills and the life skill areas let us give an idea about other factors – getting along with others, following directions, etc. – but because the categories are broad and the difference between meeting expectations and approaching expectations will be different for each child, the information we report out will always be incomplete, insufficient, and lacking, in my opinion.
    So I suppose if we are considering participation as part of a grade or as a component of relevant feedback then we need to be clear about what purpose it should serve. For whom would this information be helpful? To what degree are students involved in evaluation & documentation of their own levels of participation? Having some way to scale and/or document participation offers fertile grounds for conversations with students about what counts. So as my school moves to standards-based report cards (and me wrapping my head around what that really means ;-)), I am using the opportunity to talk more with my students about the differences between 2, 3 & 4 in different skill areas and I’m learning a lot. I am increasingly asking them to rate themselves as to their level of participation and/or effort. I think there’s a lot of room for discussion on this topic. I probably have more thoughts but I’ll pause for now. Thanks for the opportunity to stop and think about how I use this particular concept in my practice.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s