Found Wisdom
Student Comments: Moving from Participation to Contribution

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In a recent Teaching Professor blog post Maryellen Weimer revisits an article by Dennis Gioia which distinguishes between student participation and contribution and calls attention to why it's important to move students from participating in class discussion toward making contributions to class discussions. In the article, Gioia suggests that:  

"With all the effort devoted to (and feeling rewarded for) getting people to speak up, however, a rather counterproductive value becomes instilled in the class: a value for talking instead of thinking." 

He goes on to state:

"When participation for its own sake happens, a special skill is required on the part of the instructor, a skill for managing equitable participation, rather than managing the production of on-site understanding by class members. In an insidious way, when an instructor is managing participation, s/he is cheating the students while trying to please the students. For that reason, I have stopped encouraging participation in class, and started encouraging contribution to the class."

Weimer points out that even though it can sometimes be a challenge just getting students to participate, "...it’s time to start working on raising the caliber of what students say, so that in addition to participation we are hearing contributions that promote understanding, develop knowledge, and result in discussions where student voices dominate." This is especially important in classes where class participation is already high.

What does it look like when students make contributions (rather than generate participation) and what role do faculty have in fostering a "contribution-oriented" class?  Both Gioia's article and  Maryellen Weimer's Teaching Professor blog post offer suggestions and encouragement for faculty interested in moving in this direction.


Gioia, D. A. (1987).Contribution! Not participation in the OB classroom. Journal of Management Education, 11, 15-19. Retrieved from http://jme.sagepub.com/content/11/4/15.full.pdf+html.

Weimer, M. (February 13, 2013).  Student Comments: Moving from Participation to Contribution. Retrieved from http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-professor-blog/student-comments-moving-from-participation-to-contribution/.

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