The use of participation points has gone on for a long time at Palo Alto High School, but now it is time for the use of this flawed system to come to an end.
The participation points system — where students are given grade points every time they contribute to class — does not encourage student participation and learning. In fact, it encumbers it, leading to students’ grades taking unnecessary, and ususally detrimental dips.
Constant pressure to raise ones hand and contribute to class discussions for a grade piles on unneeded stress and worry. Having to think stress about raising your hand enough times to accumalate sufficient points is a completely pointless addition, especially in Advanced Placement (AP) classes, where students already have to think about staying on top of homework and keeping up with what is being taught.
If teachers still want answers on a question with multiple responses, they should just randomly pick on a student.
One example of this method is the one used by John Bungarden in AP U.S History. He randomly selects a student’s name from a stack of notecards. This method is more effective, as a student does not have to be constantly thinking about contributing some occasionally useless piece of information to the class discussion in a bid to gain a few participation points and can instead think about the class material.
Having a class participation points system also means that a teacher must set out activities in order to ensure adequate opportunities for students to get participation points. For example, in AP French, students can receive points by providing the answers to homework questions.
Students would learn much more if, instead of dragging out the answering activity, the teacher would move on to the lessons and lectures more quickly.
This would, however, only work provided that the participation points system be eliminated, otherwise there would most probably not be enough time for all of the students to get their points.
As an alternative, the participation points system could also be reduced rather than being eliminated all together.
“I would make [the points necessary] less because 20 points is a lot, or [French teacher Carla Guerard] can increase the amount of opportunities to participate,” junior Song Leng , an AP French, said. “Although increasing the opportunities to participate would most likely prove counterproductive, reducing the points necessary and as a result the class time wasted could also be a viable option. In this way, the students would surely be able to achieve a greater understanding of the material.”
Of course it could be argued that the participation points system can prove beneficial to class discussion.
“I think [the participation points system] does work, because it encourages people to speak out and share their ideas more,” Leng said.
It is true that the system encourages class discussion, but what about those too timid to speak up in class? Their refusal to contribute is not due to indolence, lack of knowledge or anything of the sort, but rather because they are shy. Forcing these students to participate in class can be detrimental to their learning experience. Rather than contribute to class discussions, shy students would prefer taking a zero in their participation grade.
It is true the participation points system serves as a way for teachers to gauge their students’ learning. However, an alternative route the teachers could take is to save time up for the end of the quarter.
For example, instead of wasting a large portion of time at the start of class, teachers could work their way quickly through homework. They could then use the extra time at the end of the quarter to give each student a quick five minute verbal exam. Through this exam, the teachers would be able to see the proficiency level of each student without the use of the participation points system.
Ultimately, participation points are not beneficial. Rather, they are a hindrance to a student’s education. The sooner this system is eliminated from our classrooms, the better.