Saturday, February 09, 2013

My Crazy Pet Peeve

I hate grading double-sided assignments.  There.  It's out. 

I know it's stupid, because I don't want to encourage more trees into paper.  But still, I do.

I write in bold on my assignments, Please do not double-side assignments for this class.  And still, I get a lot of double-sided assignments. 

I fantasize about not reading the verso side, and just grading based on what's on the front of any page.  I bet that wouldn't go over well, would it?

I just want to read by flipping pages, and not have to pick it up and reverse the whole thing, on top of the pile of many, many papers.

Yet I know I spend more time fretting and feeling frustrated than it would take to reverse the whole thing, even for every paper.

I want to write in big letters across the double-sided page some comment about how they must have thought I put my request on the assignment because I really like writing in bold print or something.  That wouldn't go over well, either. 

Still, it doesn't seem like it's a huge thing to ask, does it?

While I'm at it, I'm also tired of questions about whether I "took off points" for this or that.  No, I didn't "take off points."  The work you turned in didn't earn a better grade.  Putting ink on a page does not guarantee you an A or a 100 or a brownie point.

Speaking of brownie points, one of my colleagues has taken to handing out something akin to a sticker for completing a class with him.  So, if students have him for basketweaving 1 and 2, they get two different stickers.  He's very proud of his innovation.  I'm appalled.


  1. Stickers? Hmmm. Although perhaps you will also think my tendency to give out chocolate towards the end of class to people with perfect attendance records is odd (it's part of a sort of goofy class awards thing that I sometimes work into courses where they get to vote on the Best Widget Presentation--I toss in attendance awards too).

    I don't mean to offer assvice....but in your situation, I'd look at each paper as a student submitted it and refuse to take it. It might delay your grading by a day but you'd get what you want.

    Or, you could give stickers to people who follow directions :).

  2. Stickers are his innovation? Kindergarten teachers everywhere must be furious with him!

  3. "Take off points" is my pet peeve. It's right up there with "did I miss anything?"

  4. Anonymous12:53 PM

    I think the stickers/certificate/badge idea is cute!

    I tell my students after they finish my stats class that they can now put Stata on their cvs. It's a similar idea, though not as cute. Engineers sometimes get rings or metal things for completion of certain requirements. Programmers get certificates for some classes, and actuaries get them for exams. We get diplomas and hoods for completing degrees.

    I also verbally give out brownie points from time to time for asking good questions, but my students are always disappointed that they cannot be redeemed for actual brownies.

  5. I, too, hate "take off points"/"lose points" questions. They seem to come most often from students in STEM disciplines where that is, in fact, the way grading is done (and where high GPAs are important to getting into desired grad programs, and English is often assumed to be a class that should generate an easy A, even if the course is, in fact, "writing in your discipline"). I've got an increasingly-long paragraph in my syllabus trying to explain the more "scalar" grading system used in humanities classes, and have also tried to create grading rubrics that emphasize the scale and B-as-fully-satisfactory (which, yes, is grad inflation). I think it has helped a bit, but only a bit. The students who really think they start with an A for having accomplished the work to what they think should be good enough standards are always going to think that, whatever I do or say.

    Stickers in college? Oh, lord. I'm still wondering whether I, as a round, middle-aged female who increasingly resembles their grandmothers, can get away with not feeding them (I don't; it's not that I don't like them,or think there would be something wrong with feeding them, but it's not part of my job, and I've got enough else to do. If I'm going to take time to feed someone, it will be myself, or friends, first).

  6. I too am appalled by stickers.

    As for "taking off points," I agree that it's a way of thinking in the sciences, but we in the humanities need to nip it in the bud. I now put the following on my intro course syllabi; feel free to borrow or adapt it. ("We" means "The TAs and I.")

    "Grading criteria: We expect that a B paper will show an adequate command of historical thinking and writing: that is, it will (1) use appropriate evidence in support of (2) a clear, coherent argument that (3) demonstrates a focused thesis. It will do so in (4) correct standard English, with correct spelling and punctuation. Papers that do not meet these expectations will receive a grade below B. Papers that exceed them will receive an A, A-, or B+."

  7. midprof3:06 PM

    I like Brian's comment, above, though I'm not sure why that shouldn't be a C paper (at least in an environment where any of us could get away with giving Cs). I also endorse the NRFS (not ready for submission) grade, which means I can't grade your paper because it isn't ready yet, i.e. it lacks required elements like being single-sided. And about the "taking points off" I always tell students that I do not start with a 100 and work my way down, I start with a 0 and work my way up.

  8. Many of the papers I assign are supposed to be 2 pages. No more, no less. Thus I like getting them printed double-sided because that means exactly one sheet from each student, and if there are staples then they have gone over and need to edit. Didn't mean to make it harder on you!

    Most of my students say that writing short is far harder than writing long. From my POV, I like making them write short because they have to figure out what really is important and not waste my time on a lot of waffle.

  9. I understand. This contributes to my happiness with digital assignments. Even when they don't format according to instructions, I can quickly change the paper's appearance to conform to the assignment directions.

  10. I have given out Shakespeare bookplates in the past at the end of my Shakespeare class. Students have been quite charmed by them, frequently putting them in the front of their anthologies immediately. It's a sticker with some heft behind it, methinks. :)

    As for the double sided assignments -- exactly zero editors would accept something like that. In fact, the first thing an editor would do with that assignment is round-file it. Perhaps you should tell your students that's what you intend to do if they don't follow directions.

  11. Anonymous5:41 AM

    Editors in my field used to accept double-sided papers (so long as they were double-spaced and 12 point font). Now they only accept pdfs.

  12. I used to teach on campus for a few years. I wouldn't read more than the front side of paper. Now that I teach online, if a paper isn't double spaced, I won't read past half of the first page. And if they have a word limit, I won't read beyond that limit. And I've always told students that "above and beyond the stated criteria" gets the highest score. It all comes down to following directions. Period. If they can't do that, then they're in a world of hurt not only in class, but in life.