Thinking that I should be explicit about how I define good participation in a seminar that I’m teaching, I circulated these eight criteria:
- Being responsive to other students. (Responsiveness needn’t always be immediate, verbal, or occur within the class discussion itself.)
- Building on others’ contributions, and sometimes making links among different people’s contributions or between what they have said and the text.
- Demonstrating genuine respect for the others, where respect does not require agreement. (In fact, sometimes respect requires explicit disagreement because you take the other person’s ideas seriously.)
- Focusing on the topic and the texts, which does not preclude drawing unexpected connections beyond them.
- Taking risks, trying out ideas that you don’t necessarily endorse, and asking questions that might be perceived as naive or uninformed.
- Seeking truth or clarity or insight (instead of other objectives).
- Exercising freedom of speech along with a degree of tact and concern for the other people.
- Demonstrating responsibility for the other students’ learning in what you say (and occasionally by a decision not to speak).
Students also privately wrote how they will assess themselves. Their assessments will be for their reflection alone–I won’t ever see them.