This section of the discussion module provides methods for assessing student participation following small- and whole-group classroom discussions. Many of the strategies discussed below provide teachers with information about assessing student learning. For information about additional methods of assessing student learning, see the assessment module. The assessment module also provides information about using grading to improve instruction.


Have students assess their own understanding or participation following small-group or class discussions. Instruct them to answer the following questions:

·       Did your participation address other students’ comments?

·       Did your participation address relevant course content?

·       Did you provide concrete examples of your ideas?

·       Did you support others' ideas with evidence and cite the source of the evidence?

·       Do you remember and can you define or explain key terms or concepts?

Organize these criteria by developing a rubric or scoring guide, and distribute this instrument to students following the discussion. Students can be asked to rate their own level of participation in discussions. After completing the rubric, ask students to reflect on how they could improve their participation or group discussions in the future.

Self-assessments are most helpful when used to gather information to improve communication and participation skills. If students rarely participate, then offer several ways for participation such as a written reflection or an online posting in Canvas due before class. Alternatively, encourage students who dominate the conversation to monitor the number or comments they share and the importance/relevance of their comments.

Peer Evaluation

Consider inviting students to assess participation of their peers following small-group discussions. Peer assessment is a powerful tool because students get feedback from their classmates, rather than solely from the instructor. It provides you with more insight into the conversations that occur during small group interactions.

For peer feedback to be effective, establish your class expectations and criteria for participation. The criteria can be organized by developing a rubric or scoring guide. This instrument can be distributed to students periodically following small-group discussions, and students can rate their group members’ level of participation during small-group discussions. Provide enough copies of the rubric so each student assesses member participation in the group. The feedback can be anonymous.

Similar to self-evaluation, peer-assessments can be included in the participation grade, but are most helpful for identifying areas of improvement. Use the feedback to guide students for setting goals for future participation.

Written Records

You may choose to record information about student participation during whole-group discussions. For instance, retain a seating chart at all times. When students contribute ideas that advance the discussion, place a check mark next to their name. Describe this system to students beforehand, so that they are aware of this process.

Explain your expectations for participation and articulate the specifics of participation grades in the syllabus. Indicate to students that if they share ideas that further class discussion, they will receive at least partial credit for participation.

Some ideas include:

·       connecting course concepts to the everyday world,

·       explaining concepts using analogies or metaphors,

·       applying assigned course readings to the discussion,

·       critiquing an argument with supporting evidence,

·       exposing implicit assumptions to evaluate their merit

You may choose to include participation in the computation of students’ grades or these may serve more for students’ self-improvement (when including factors such as student participation, effort, neatness, or behavior in grading, you should ensure that these components only represent a small portion of the students’ final grade which should largely reflect their mastery of course content.1

In addition, ask students to submit a written response following small-group discussions. For example, after a small group discussion, you can request feedback through a minute paper. Students take out a piece of paper and quickly jot down answers to questions regarding their experience with lesson or discussion. Three questions to ask: What was unclear? What was beneficial to you? What questions went unanswered? You can evaluate the groups’ participation by grading their submission. 


(1) Green, S. K., Johnson, R. L., Kim, D., Nakia, S. P. (2007). Ethics in classroom assessment practices: Issues and attitudes. Teaching and Teacher Education, 23(7), 999-1011.