Sample Class Participation Policies

If a significant portion of the grade is based on class participation, it is useful to explain to students what you expect from them. As with many of these policies, you may choose not to include it on your syllabus. However, explaining what you see as positive class participation will help students create the kind of discussion in class that you hope they will.

You need to ask yourself what participation means. Is it enough for students to say something each class for them to get credit for participating? Or do you want to define “quality” participation (ie. comments that reference the text or comments that connect to other material from the class)? Do questions count as participation? Does attentive listening count? What about participation in group work?

Below you can see three different examples of how Penn instructors talk about participation in their syllabus. They are included as examples to get you started thinking about how to encourage the type of participation you want and not as templates. You will need to think about what works for your class and your goals to create a statement that works for you.

Sample Language

  • Alain Plante, Geology 421

Participation, for the purposes of the lectures and laboratory sessions, means having read the assigned materials before the scheduled class meeting. The expectation is that you will each participate by raising issues that you did not understand during your readings, asking questions of the group during discussions, and provide your opinion and thoughts on various relevant subjects.

  • Nedra Lexow, Biological Basis of Behavior 482

Participation in class discussions is required. Students who prepare for and participate fully in relevant and collaborative ways in class discussions and activities will receive higher grades. Most of the important questions about the pathophysiology and treatment of neuropsychiatiric and neurodegenerative disorders do not have answers, thus, uncertainty and speculation will characterize our class discourse. Rigorous preparation of the weekly assignments will provide sufficient background for meaningful contribution to class discussions. If you are having trouble understanding a concept, please raise the issue in class. Chances are your classmates will have similar questions. If you are concerned that you do not understand the concepts, please schedule an appointment during my office hours prior to the class meeting so that you can be prepared to participate in class discussions.

  • Shannon Lundeen, GSWS 242

Since this course is a seminar-style course, everyone is expected to participate in class discussions. Your grade for participation will not only reflect how often you contributed to our class discussions, but the degree to which your contributions were constructive and generative of further response(s) from your fellow classmates. Combative posturing, defamatory remarks, or statements that are off-topic work to silence others and stunt dialogue and will, therefore, negatively impact your participation grade. Please see me early on in the semester outside of class to discuss ways to effectively participate in our seminar if you are concerned about your performance in this regard.