Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School Psychology

Major Professor

Robert L. Williams

Committee Members

Sherry K. Bain, Dennis J. Ciancio, David F. Cihak


Although class participation has been linked to improved student performance, little research has evaluated the effects of cold-calling versus voluntary participation. This study (N =156) determined the differential effects of voluntary and cold-calling participation practices on participation credit, uncapped magnitude of participation, participation rate, attendance, and adjusted exam scores. These dependent measures were compared between (a) voluntary and cold-calling conditions and (b) high and low participants under baseline (voluntary participation without credit and high-rate and low-rate participants). The use of voluntary and cold-calling procedures was alternated across units. Results were evaluated using mixed designs with repeated-measures across treatment units and between-subject comparisons.

For both capped and raw participation, students exhibited higher levels of participation during voluntary units. Students who were high in baseline raw participation remained significantly higher than the low group in raw participation earned. Raw participation of the high group was significantly higher during voluntary units; however, the low group did not differ significantly between voluntary and cold-calling. Overall, participation rate did not differ significantly between voluntary and cold-calling units. The low-rate group generally had higher participation rates under the cold-calling condition, whereas the high-rate group had greater participation rates under the voluntary condition. Attendance did not differ significantly between voluntary and cold-calling units. While students in the late onset condition did not differ in exam performance, students in the early onset condition scored significantly lower on exams during cold-calling units than during baseline. For exam performance, the main effect for treatment condition was not significant. A student survey revealed that a majority of students favored a voluntary participation arrangement. A majority of the students reported feeling nervous during cold-calling units, but indicated they followed the discussion more closely during those units.

Advantages and disadvantages can be identified for both cold-calling and voluntary participation. Initially reticent students will likely become more engaged in class discussion under the cold-calling condition, whereas participation for the whole class will be higher under the voluntary condition. Some blending of the two conditions would probably be optimal: starting a class with cold-calling and gradually switching to voluntary participation as student engagement increases.

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