You can always find at least two types of students in every class: the talker and the listener. Because of this big difference, there can be a divide between classmates. Unfortunately, this becomes obvious when report cards come out, especially regarding participation grades. What report cards can fail to show, however, are the different ways that people choose to participate. So the question becomes: do participation grades truly reflect a student’s ability to engage in a class?
For those who are more shy and introverted, the participation section of a report card can come as a sad reminder of one’s academic shortcomings, being introverted. On the other hand, being a primary listener in class can be a strength most of the time.
“Sometimes speaking up in class can be nerve racking,” sophomore Lindsey Han said. “There can be so much judgement when you get an answer wrong, so I usually listen to other people’s questions because they help me learn better anyway. It can be unfair for students like me when we are judged so much on our choice to listen, especially if it works. Why should I change the way I learn just to get a better participation grade?”
There are many reasons why participation grades can be unfair, one being that it can actually decrease your grade. For example, if one student got a B+ in a course, but his or her assessment average was an A or A-, it is not fair that one’s introvert-ness could undo his or her hard work.
While it might not seem as serious, in most Brentwood classes, the weight of participation is between 5% to 10%. That means that it could easily have the ability to decrease someone’s grade from an A- to a B+, and so on.
Just because one is not shouting out answers in front of the class, does not necessarily mean that that student does not know it. Especially in high school, teenagers can be self-conscious, and being graded on one’s ability to speak in front of their 20 person class can be harmful to someone’s self conscience.
“If you are more introverted, it helps to send the teacher an email about your feelings regarding participation,” said Stacy Siegel, Brentwood’s upper school learning specialist. A teacher will be happy to judge a more quiet student’s participation in other ways. Even participating once a week can make a difference.”
Participation grades do not always reflect a student’s best qualities, especially for those of us who are shy or introverted. With this being said, it is also a good idea to communicate with your teacher and let them know if you feel that your participation is negatively affecting your grade.