This chapter engages the intersection of two of Critel’s commonplaces of participation: technology and embodiment. It begins with the coauthors’ personal narratives that articulate how Critel’s research shifted their understandings of the obligatory participation requirement, which judges students’ embodied activities (such as spoken participation) in ways that can impede access for students. The chapter represents the coauthors’ collective attempt to keep engaged in a dialogue with Critel, articulating the diverse ways they have worked to radically refigure and/or abolish the participation requirement in favor of assessing digital informal composing both in and out of class. The coauthors then describe recent attempts to bring discussion and assessment of participation back into their classrooms in more reflective ways, ending with six key reflective practices instructors can use in their own classroom contexts to challenge sexist and ableist inequities in classroom participation. Ultimately, by drawing on digital, feminist and disability studies theories, this chapter suggests teachers should employ a diverse range of technologies to engage students in reflectively assessing which forms of participation best contribute to their learning as well as how they can best enable the participation of other students.
In this coauthored Web text, we tell a multivocal narrative about how Gen Critel’s research on participation caused us to radically reconceive the ways in which we discuss, assess, and evaluate participation in our undergraduate and graduate classrooms. While we once uncritically assigned substantial participation grades to students based largely on attendance and subjective perceptions of contribution to class discussion, our reflective conversations with Gen have led us to reconceive of participation as a complex, reflective practice profoundly shaped by technological environments and gendered power dynamics.
Extending Gen’s scholarship on participation, we argue that digital classroom environments encourage and perhaps even require a re-imagining of what participation means; in particular, we assert that digital, participatory pedagogy entails a shift of emphasis away from evaluating students’ fleeting contributions to oral discussion in favor of reflectively assessing students’ informal composing of alphabetic and multimodal texts. We focus here particularly on the use of digital technologies for participation within traditional classroom spaces, though we would note that fully online classes also require a radical refiguring of what participation means.
In our participatory, digital classrooms, students still talk to one another and to us, but these conversations ultimately lead to the production of informal compositions that can be assessed reflectively and fairly by both teacher and student. Although some teachers worry that digital technologies distract students from participating in lecture and discussion-based classes, we contend that digital media can support a participatory pedagogy by offering more options for collaborative student composing and inquiry both within and outside the walls of the classroom.
Although we argue that a greater emphasis on informal, in-class composing is a key element of a participatory pedagogy, we also believe teachers should be wary of any model of participation that privileges one form of learning over another. Whenever we focus on only one form of participation (whether whole-class discussion, in-class composing, F2F attendance or anything else), we risk replicating unequal power dynamics and making our classrooms inaccessible to particular groups of students. Drawing on feminist and disability studies theories, we suggest that teachers should engage students in reflectively assessing which forms of participation best contribute to their learning as well as how they can best enable the participation of other students.