This requirement has two parts: (1) Active participation. Discussion is the life-blood of an English course. It is NOT enough to read the texts; you must come to class prepared to discuss them. This means taking notes with wild abandon as you read and thinking hard about the texts and their relation to our ongoing discussions. Contributions to discussion will be judged not only on quantity, but also on quality. You need to come to class with notes on the readings. (2) Attentiveness and collegiality: It’s important not simply to speak, but to listen to what your professors and your classmates are saying. You should respond to comments, both in class and on the course blog, and you should actively seek to contribute to the current discussion. Avoid simply repeating comments.
When I assign the grades for class engagement, one of the central questions I’ll be asking is whether or not I would write a letter of recommendation or be willing to serve as a reference for you. Remember, your performance here may well have ramifications beyond the classroom.
“A” class engagement is exceptional. This person is always prepared for class, not simply because s/he has done the reading, but because s/he has taken notes and thought about what to say in class. This person speaks clearly when called on and usually refers to a specific example or passage to support his/her claims. This student has written exceptional blog posts, which both illuminate the text at hand and serve as fodder for discussion. When speaking in class, this person has resisted the (understandable) temptation to begin “Uh, well, I just sort of thought, that, kind of in a way. . .”, but instead gets to the point and speaks in a compelling way. This person stays on the topic under discussion and since s/he has been listening attentively both to the professor and the other students, she/he may refer to previous comments if they are relevant. This person has missed few if any classes. Finally, this student never speaks simply to be speaking, as s/he values (as the professor does) quality over quantity.
“B” class engagement is good. This person has done the reading and comes to class with something to say. This student stays on topic in comments and speaks clearly. Blog posts have been strong, and this student at times will refer to what other students have said in class or in responses. This student appears attentive in class, and even if s/he only makes one or two comments in a given class period, those comments are clear and to the point.
“C” class engagement is average. This student has done the reading, but s/he may not have thought much about the reading before coming to class. This person does offer some solid comments on the topic under the discussion, even if s/he doesn’t always have a clear example or specific passage to support those comments. This student usually appears fairly attentive in class, though may go several classes without speaking at all. Blog posts are often uneven.
“D” class engagement is poor. This student may or may not have done the reading, and attendance has been spotty. At times, this student may forget her/his book, and s/he rarely seems to be attentive in class. Blog posts have been grim or missing.
“F” class engagement indicates that 1) a student’s absences have been numerous, and/or 2) the student never says anything in class, and when called upon, has nothing to say, and/or 3) a student rarely seems to have done the reading or even remembered the book.