After the first week of classes, I would say I am pretty happy with my schedule and my courses. Each professor went over the syllabus and then there it was, the dreaded participation grade. For many students, participation is easy peasy, but for many more, it can be quite intimidating. With learners of all kinds, why do we use participation as an indicator to learning?
As a visual-audio learner, I best absorb the lesson when I spend time listening to others and watching them put the lesson into practice. With participation grades, I feel forced to say something or ask a question I could answer myself so I can establish with the professor that I am learning. And I get it: once I go into the real world, I am going to have to voice my opinion or ask questions and be a real adult. But I just do not see the point of having our grades rely so heavily on participation.
Let me make things a little clearer: I am talking about the participation that requires you as a student to ask questions and add to discussion. I know many teachers categorize participation as attending class, being on time, turning in homework, creating group projects and working well with others. All of those criteria are totally OK with me for a "participation grade." What I do not want to do is show up to class knowing I have to say something just to keep up my grade.
And I understand why professors want students to participate: so that they know we are learning. But if my grade hovers between and an A and a B because I did not talk more than three times each period, then I'm sorry, that is ridiculous.
For more than two years at Rollins, I have struggled with this whole idea of "participation points" because I am quieter and more reserved in class. I am all for a great class discussion, but sometimes I just feel I do not have anything valuable to contribute.
I do think that Rollins professors make an effort to get to know you and learn how you learn. So, they will ask you a question or frame a discussion topic in a way that suits your learning type as well as your comfortability with participating. For example, one of my education professors knows I learn primarily through audio and visual aids rather than asking questions or making discussion, so she pays attention to the way I observe and take notes rather than me actually saying anything.
I am not sure what an alternative would be to participation grades because professors do need to know whether we are learning or not, but I also do not know why it is such a big factor of our overall grade.