For First-Year Students, How Does Class Participation Relate to Other Academic Behaviors and Outcomes?

This research note explores differences between students who indicate their degree of class participation as low, moderate or high. This was derived from the MAP-Works® survey item “To what degree are you the kind of person who participates in class?” Responses were on a seven-point scale (1-2 was coded as low, 3-5 as moderate, and 6-7 as high). MAP-Works, designed for all class levels, is a comprehensive student retention and success program which empowers faculty and professional staff to effectively and efficiently impact student success. MAP-Works identifies students early in the term allowing for immediate support and intervention. It then serves as the infrastructure to manage those critical outreach efforts. Data from the 2011 Fall Transition Survey is summarized below, including more than 170,000 first-year students from 102 institutions.

Approximately 59% of first-year respondents indicated they participated in class at a high level of frequency, 38% participating at a moderate level and 3% at the lowest level. Frequency of class participation is linked with higher self-assessment of academic behaviors. Students who indicated they participated in class with greater frequency are more likely to assess their academic abilities related to writing, reading, math and problem solving as very good or excellent compared to those who indicate participating in class with less frequency. Students who more frequently reported participating in class are also more likely to attend class, take good notes, study, and turn in homework nearly always compared to those who report participating with less frequency. Only 3% of those who indicated the lowest level of class participation reported communicating with their instructors nearly always compared to more than half of respondents with the highest levels of class participation. Higher frequency of participation is also linked with increased self-assessment of skills related to time management and self-discipline. Those who participate in class with the least frequency were more likely to cite spending less time studying for tests both in high school and college. Finally, those with lower levels of participation had lower high school and college GPAs.

    Academic Skills, Ability and Self-Discipline
  1. Students who participate in class less frequently are less likely than students who participate more frequently to rate their academic abilities as very good or excellent.
    • Forty-three percent of students who participate in class frequently rated their writing composition abilities as very good or excellent compared to 30% of students participating in class less frequently.
    • Similar patterns were found for reading comprehension, math abilities, and problem solving skills. The smallest differences were observed between participation levels on math ability self-assessment.
  2. Students with high levels of participation in class are more likely to report good basic academic behaviors.
    • More than 97% of respondents who indicated they participated in class frequently reported nearly always attending class compared to 86% of respondents who indicated participating in class infrequently.
    • Similarly, 95% of respondents participating in class frequently reported nearly always turning in required homework assignments compared to 79% of those infrequently participating in class.
    • The most striking difference based on level of participation in class was found when respondents were asked about how frequently they communicate with instructors outside of class. More than half of those indicating frequently participating in class reported nearly always communicating with instructors outside of class compared to 12% of those with moderate levels of participation and 3% of those with low levels of participation.
  3. Students who participate in class frequently are more likely to report high levels of self-discipline and time management skills.
    • More than two-thirds of respondents who reported high levels of class participation indicated they were self-disciplined to a high degree compared to 44% of those who participate with the least frequency.
    • More than 60% of respondents who indicated participating in class frequently reported planning out their time to a high degree compared to 35% of those who participate in class with the least frequency and 43% who participate with moderate frequency.
  4. Students who participate in class with the highest frequency expect to spend more time studying in college.
    • Nearly three-quarters of respondents with the lowest levels of class participation indicated studying one hour or less for their tests in high school compared to 57% of those with the highest levels of class participation.
    • A fifth of respondents with the lowest levels of class participation anticipated studying one hour or less for tests in college compared to only 8% of respondents who participated in class at the highest levels.
  5. Students with the highest class participation rates earned the highest cumulative GPAs in high school.
    • Approximately half of respondents who participated in class most frequently earned a GPA of 3.50 or higher in high school compared to 38% of those who participated in class with the least frequency.
  6. Frequency of participation in class is related to higher first-term college GPA.
Conclusion

Frequency of class participation is linked with higher self-assessment of academic behaviors including math, writing, reading and problem solving. Students who reported more frequently participating in class are also more likely to attend class, take good notes, study, and turn in homework nearly always than those who report participating with less frequency. Those who reported the lower levels of participation were also less likely to report communicating with their instructors outside of class. Those who participate in class with the least frequency were more likely to cite spending less time studying for tests both in high school and college. Likewise, those with lower levels of participation had lower high school and college GPAs.

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