Participation and Evaluation in Adult Education

PIDP 3230 – Evaluation of Learning
Vancouver Community College
Kathryn Truant
June 11, 2017

Objective: What is this quote or idea about? What caught my attention?

Participation

“Many instructors allocate 10-20% for participation (in class and/or online).  Participation can take many forms (e.g. answering questions, helping others, leading group discussions, posting insightful comment in online Forum discussions). Objectively evaluating participation can be difficult. For example, are some comments more valuable than other comments? Personality and cultural considerations can come into play. What is the best way to deal with the evaluation of participation?” (Vancouver Community College 2017)

What caught my attention about this quote is that I believe classroom participation is worth encouraging, and evaluating in adult education. Much of the reference material on classroom participation that I researched equates classroom participation to behaviours. These behaviours include positive outlook, enthusiasm, and commitment (Maznevski, 2009). I disagree with evaluating behaviours; I would rather evaluate learners based on criteria that is fair to individual students. So, what is the best way to determine fair criteria?

Reflective: Why did I choose this quote or idea? How do I identify with it?

I chose to reflect on the evaluation of participation because in my experience, participation enhances my learning process. I identify with the idea of participation in adult education because I like to participate; I like to share knowledge, ideas, and questions. And I like to receive feedback! I also like to connect with my classmates, especially in an online course where a student can feel alienated. I also like when instructors encourage participation. “No one person knows everything, and learning alongside other people is more effective and fun than learning alone” (Truant 2017).

When an instructor encourages non-judgemental participation (like my PIDP 3230 instructor, Jeff May, does with the Coffee Shop and KAI Feedback Forum), it creates a positive learning environment by making the learner feel that they have something to contribute, and that they’re part of the process; their individual insights matter. Connection is very powerful for a student, and I’m sure it is for an instructor too.

Interpretive: What does the quote mean to me? What insights do I get from reflecting on evaluating participation? How has my thinking changed by reflecting on this idea?

            In The Art of Evaluation – a Resource for Trainers and Educators, Fenwick and Parsons define class participation as commonly awarded grades for student’s attendance and contribution to the class discussions and activity (2009). However, Fenwick and Parsons warn instructors “not to award class participation marks based on who talks most! Learners participate differently” (2009, p.149).

An insight I have gained to is consider different personalities and cultures. Not everyone feels the need to connect, and not everyone has been given that freedom before. Content should not matter because everyone has something to contribute and should feel welcome and unjudged in their contribution. It is the act of participation that should be evaluated, not what the person is sharing.

My thinking has changed by reflecting on this idea because I have not considered being evaluated on participation, and I think it’s something worth considering when there are criteria and conditions applied. The more I am called upon to step out of my comfort zone (i.e. participate, share my thoughts, listen to others), the more attentive and engaged in lessons I am.

Decisional: How can this new or enhanced interpretation be applied to my professional practice?

As a student, I will continue to be a participant, and in doing so, be an example to others; I will help learners who do not feel comfortable participating by providing positive and helpful feedback. In my professional practice, I will use methods to assess individuals fairly: assign class feedback on websites like Kahoot! (2017) for example. Also, whether it’s a face to face, or an online class, reflective writing assignments are a good way to encourage and evaluate participation.

The best way to deal with the evaluation of participation is communication and observation. Students who are mindful and attentive when others are speaking are participating at the same level as those students who articulate well in an open forum, and their comments are no more valuable whether an instructor decides to quantify it with a grade or not. Rather than quantifying classroom participation with a grade, I will discuss how it enhances the learning process. “When students focus more clearly, participate more actively, and feel more confident that they can succeed, they are more likely to do better in their course work” (Angelo & Cross, 1993, p.5).

@Please refer to my Resources page for works cited