Participation Grading with Exit Tickets

Participation Grading with Exit Tickets

Written by: Andrew L. Detzel, Daniels College of Business

Between Winter and Spring quarters of 2017, I taught three sections of FIN 3300, an introductory course in Investments that is required for Finance majors and elective for non-Finance business majors. I am a strong believer in rigorously grading participation to incentivize it. However, keeping track of many students’ participation is naturally challenging. During these two quarters, I experimented with the use of “exit tickets” to facilitate assessment of participation.

An exit ticket is simply a half sheet of paper with two questions on it. Students must fill one out each class to get participation credit for that day. The first question is: “What was the most interesting thing you learned today or what is one concept you are still confused about?” The second question is: “What was your most valuable one contribution to the class today?”

The second question is the main assessment tool for grading participation. I instruct them to be brief describing their contribution, but specific enough that I can judge the contribution’s quality. Students earn full credit if they ask a substantive question, or offer a nontrivial insight or answer to a question in class discussion. They earn partial credit if their contribution falls short of that.

The first question has several purposes, including helping students answer the second question. First, it forces them to pause for a moment and reflect on what they have experienced during the class time, which by itself increases their engagement with the material. Second, this question offers students a chance to participate indirectly—and earn some credit—by identifying confusion that may have prevented them from participating during class. Finally, this question also helps identify points of confusion that I the instructor can fix in future classes, which of course promotes engagement and participation.

The exit tickets were somewhat successful and worked roughly as one would expect. Relative to prior quarters teaching the same course, I observed a noticeable increase in participation among the segment of students who would not normally be inclined to actively participate and participation scores increased on average. Student evaluations also overwhelmingly conveyed appreciation about my encouraging of participation, although two student comments expressed dissatisfaction being graded with exit tickets.

While exit tickets are simple and effective, they have their limitations that should be considered before use. First, they incentivize everyone to contribute something to class discussion, but some students will do only that and then reduce their effort for the rest of class once they have. Of course, this is often an improvement from nothing at all. A second issue is that some absences are excusable and perhaps students cannot be expected to make a stellar contribution every single class. I recommend dropping two or three ticket scores when computing final course grades.

Overall, exit tickets are worth a try if they are consistent with your teaching style.

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