How do you measure student participation in your classes? Obviously, a student who never attends class, never turns in assignments, and never takes an exam is far from anyone’s idea of an engaged student. On the other hand, some students do all they can to succeed, spending all their free time studying and all their class time in active participation (taking notes, working on activities, and sharing their thoughts during discussions). And most students fall somewhere within the spectrum of these behaviors (with some supposing—wrongly, of course—that they can skate by with minimal effort and still truly learn).

If you asked most students, they probably would say that they want to succeed in school, but they may not always engage in the behaviors that add up to success. If the responses we received in a recent survey (part of Cengage Learning’s Case Study program) are any indication, most do recognize the importance of such activities as working in groups, completing class assignments, participating in class discussions, highlighting their readings, taking notes on your lectures, and completing both assigned projects and readings, and do engage in them on a regular basis.

You can see the results below (click on the image to enlarge).

students and class participation

A few highlights of our findings:

  • Per these students, group work is not necessarily a given. Though ten students reported that they always work with groups, and fourteen said that they often work in groups, seven responded “sometimes,” three responded “rarely,” and one responded “never.” This variety of experiences could very well have to do with the types of work that student had been assigned, and may not necessarily have to do with a lack of interest in doing so.
  • Most participate in class discussions to some degree: sixteen of the thirty-five do always do so; nine do so often; and seven do so at times. (No students stated that they never participate.)
  • Thirty of the thirty-five students said that they take notes often or all of the time. This is a positive sign that a great number of students are indeed paying attention to what’s being said!
  • Fewer students (fourteen out of the thirty-five) say that they often or always highlight the text during class (ostensibly because they’re focusing on the lecture, rather than the textbook).
  • Thirty-four of thirty-five students stated that they always complete class assignments, while nearly half report that they complete the assigned readings all of the time.

Tips for students who want to increase their class participation

If you’re concerned that your students aren’t participating frequently enough in any of these behaviors, or if a particular student wants some tips for increasing their level of class participation, share the information in the following blog posts with them:

  • Tips for Students: How to Read a Textbook. Quick tip: Develop a reading strategy. For example: Before you dive into reading the chapter, do a quick survey of it. Recall what you already know about the topic, and think of some questions that you believe will be answered in the chapter. This step can function as a “warmup” to your reading time.
  • For Your Students: How to Be an Effective Note Taker. Quick tip: Listen for “signal” words or terms such as “for example,” “on the other hand,” or “in summary,” as these often indicate a point that the speaker wants to highlight or emphasize.
  • Tips for Students: Participating Effectively in Discussions. Quick tip: No matter whether you’re in a physical classroom or using your online class discussion board, always communicate with respect. This demonstrates interest in others and increases the likelihood that they’ll listen to you and treat you with respect, too.
  • Tips for Students: How to Contribute Positively to a Team. Quick tip: Participate fully! Respectfully share your ideas, encourage your teammates, and complete any tasks you’re assigned.
  • Success Strategies for Teamwork in the Online Setting. Quick tip: Use tech tools to communicate and coordinate. For example: a shared online calendar can help you keep track of your progress and stay on top of which team member is handling a given task.

How about homework? Can that improve class participation?

From a young age, students learn to dread the word homework. But when homework is designed to enhance the learning experience, it can lead to improved student preparation—and increased participation within the classroom as well. It you’re looking for a learning solution that can turn homework into an engaging experience that supports classroom learning, enhances your effectiveness, and improves student success, you may be interested in learning more about Aplia. Our studies show that Aplia engages, prepares, and educates learners and leads to greater student (and instructor) satisfaction. Download the white paper today!

Your observations of students’ class participation habits

Are your students active participants in your classes? What advice would you share with your fellow instructors? We want to hear from you! Share your thoughts below.