Participation Instructions


The participation component is a large portion of your grade in this class. More importantly, your participation is essential to learning. Expressing your thoughts in words is essential to processing the new concepts and arguments we have covered in the reading, lecture, and discussion.

Successful students earn points every week by participating. Everyone starts at an 80% and works up from there. You don’t have to sound smart. You can be confused. All you need to do to get an “A” in this component is to be diligent.

There are two paths to participating: speaking and writing. They are not mutually exclusive. Internal processors are welcome to talk in class, and external processors are welcome to post on the Discussion Board. The more the merrier.

External Processors

Everyone is an “External processor” by default, unless approved by me.

  • External processors are responsible to speak once per week in class.
  • “Speaking” is defined as offering at least one substantial comment or asking a question per week. You can respond to the teacher during a lecture or talk/asking a question to another student during a discussion.
  • Speak whether or not you are called upon. Raise your hand. Get your word in! This is your responsibility.
  • If you have not spoken by the last class day of the week, make sure to do so (on Thursday or Friday, depending on when your class is.)
  • External processors who earn an “A” speak once per week in class.
  • You can earn maximum points “A+” by: staying engaged with lectures and discussions, offering your thoughts, asking questions of the teacher, responding to fellow students,
  • Speaking more than once is of course welcome – that is good! If you are confident talking in a group setting, and enjoy dialogue and debate, that is good! Don’t apologize or feel bad for that. But do be mindful of others who are quieter and may not be as confident. In fact, invite them in.
  • A great way to earn participation points is by inviting others into the dialogue. (e.g., “Joe hasn’t talked yet, I wonder what he has to say.” Or “Jane, do you agree or disagree?”)
  • Another great way to participate is to follow the conversation in your mind or in your notes, and offer to “retrace our steps” in the discussion by summarizing what we have said so far. Discussions are organic and spontaneous, with lots of bunny trails, loops, clarifications, and re-statements. It helps to hear someone try to retread where we have gone.
  • I may or may not respond to your verbal contributions in class – even if I don’t respond I’m listening and value your effort and your thoughts.
  • Relax and have fun!

Internal Processors

“Internal processors” participate by writing on the Discussion Board wiki online. To switch to being an internal processor, let me know in person or by email that you would prefer this path. A good mix is 60/40 mix of external/internal processors in each class, so I may want to discuss it with you before approving the switch. And I may not let you switch!

Unless you specifically request that I not call on you, I still may ask your opinion in class when I come to your 3x5 card or if I want to hear from you. If you strongly prefer that I not put you on the spot, please let me know. (And be patient with me if I forget! Just say, “Pass.”)

  • Internal processors are responsible to post a reflection once per week.
  • A “post” is defined as writing at least one substantial comment or question per week on that week’s topic.
  • Anything more than a sentence is sufficient. A paragraph is perfect. Two or three paragraphs is great too! Just try to express what you are thinking about, pondering over, struggling with, or understanding about that week’s topic.
  • I recommend posting on or before Friday of that week. However, you are only required to post about the week’s topic by Monday of the next week. In other words, to earn points for Week 1, you should post by the first day of Week 2. You have the whole week to reflect, or the weekend if you need it. Still, I recommend posting on Friday or before so that things are still fresh (and so other internal processors have the opportunity to respond to you!)
  • Writing more than once is of course welcome – that is good! Don’t feel bad if you write a lot.
  • You can write about a variety of things: (a) you could respond to one of the main class discussion questions from that week; (b) you could ask a new question that you are pondering after the reading, lecture, and discussion; (c) you could respond to another internal processor’s post; or (d) some mix of the above.
  • One great option is to invite others to respond to you, or to pose questions and arguments for others to consider.
  • Another great option is to write your summary of the class discussion.
  • I may or may not write a response to your posts – even I don’t respond I read everything and value your effort and your thoughts.
  • Relax and have fun!


Philosophy is not just about content but about dialogue. We are going to cover a lot of new and unfamiliar topics, so everyone will get confused at points – even me! The goal is to help each other get unconfused.

Finally, the most important form of participation is something that cannot be graded. The most important form of participation is letting the arguments and questions we cover in class seep into your thoughts and conversations outside of class. In fact, you may find you learn more talking with friends and family than you learn talking to me or your peers. Our ultimate goal is not just to pass the class (that too!) – it’s to grow.