University of Wisconsin–Madison

Evaluating Students’ Oral Participation in Class

Professor Yoshiko Herrera
Political Science 186

Professor Herrera includes the following guidelines on her syllabus. She offers a clear explanation for how she evaluates students’ participation in class—and posts grades on Learn@UW every day after class. This practice has substantially increased and improved students’ preparation and participation.

Preparation and participation in discussions is worth 10% of students’ grades, and the “In-class explanation of concepts” oral exercise is worth 15% (5% for each of 3 explanations).


Reading, Preparation, and Participation:

  • This is a discussion-based class and active participation is essential. Mere attendance is not full participation.  Active participation means being prepared by doing the reading and thinking about the material so that you can ask and answer questions related to the course material in class.
  • Absences will only be excused due to religious conflicts or medical issues; contact me as soon as possible, should a medical issue or religious conflict arise.
  • Students are expected to attend for the full class period; arriving late or leaving the room during class will result in a lowered participation grade for the day
  • It is acceptable to use a laptop in class to take notes, but engaging in other work or online activity unrelated to the course during class will result in a lowered participation grade for the day.
  • The grading scheme for discussion participation is:

A = Attended and actively participated (e.g. raised hand, and seemed in command of readings and material)

B = Attended and spoke, but without evidence of preparation

C = Attended but did not speak

F = Did not attend

Note that there is no “D” reflecting the large gap between attending and not attending.  Also, there are no A/B or B/C grades, but those liminal grades will appear in the final course grades.


In-class explanation of concepts:

Students are responsible for reading all assigned material before class.  There are no traditional lectures in this course; instead each week I will randomly choose five students and ask each of them to explain a concept from the week’s readings.  Student explanations will be graded according to the following criteria:

A = Outstanding explanation of concept, going beyond just description of text and offering original analysis.

B = Good explanation of concept, demonstrating adequate engagement with the text.

C = Minimally able to explain or describe concept, but only in the broadest terms.

D = Unable to explain concept with any accuracy, suggesting a lack of reading.

F = Did not attend