Opinion: The issue with participation grades

  • 1 min to read

College professors should stop making "participation points" vital to getting a good grade. 

Participation is important... to an extent. But as someone with severe [group] anxiety, it makes life hellish.  According to Adaa.org, over 18 percent of adults over the age of 18 suffer from an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety disorders are far too common for professors to continue utilizing class participation to determine how hard a student is working.  Every semester, my grades drop due to professors relying on participation points. And it's not from a lack of trying. 

I do my homework, I read for classes and try to be well-prepared. Yet professors dock me for not speaking up in class. I pay an absorbent amount of money to go to these classes only to get points taken away for having a mental illness that I can't control. 

I have spoken to professors about this before, yet my grade is always affected by it regardless of any compromise that is made.

I have tried writing down notes beforehand to talk about in class, yet when I get there it feels like the world is falling apart and all I can do is sit there, panicking. 

Speaking in class discussions does not determine how much I understand the information. I can be completely silent and know exactly what is going on. Other students can be vocal and have no idea. 

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the importance of participation. Especially to ensure that students are putting in the work. When it comes to verifying if students are doing the readings for class, it makes sense. However, there are other ways to do this.

My problem is when it somehow becomes more important than the other work in the class. I could get an A on every assignment and exam yet still watch my GPA drop because I didn’t talk enough in class. 

How often I speak in class does not reflect how much work I have done for that class. A lot of students can simply argue for fun in class and have no understanding of what is going on. It seems absurd for them to have a higher grade because they speak in class. 

Professors expect their students to inform them when there are issues such as this, but sometimes even that is asking too much. If a student is struggling to talk to peers in class due to anxiety, why would one assume they will easily approach the professor to tell them? 

Overall, forcing class discussion for a grade is unfair to students who have actual illnesses that make it difficult if not impossible. I enjoy most of my classes and my professors, but losing points for having anxiety is aggravating, especially when there is nothing I can do about it.