Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Grading Thing

When I first studied in a teaching composition program, the faculty emphasized that we needed to create assignments that we would actually like (or at least not hate) grading.  And I try to do that in my classes.

The thing is, after the first 7 or 12 or 25 papers (or any sort of assignment, really), grading becomes progressively more difficult, harder to make myself do.  And that's when I give assignments I've created carefully with an eye to not being tortured.

In our writing courses, we're pretty much expected to follow a course plan and give assignments that are pretty similar and based on the course plan.  And that means to me, they're boring as hell.  It's not a matter of grading 7 before I'm bored, it's facing grading the first.

And the boredom isn't the boredom of, say, weeding, or riding my bike for a couple of hours.  It's longer, for one thing.  And I have to pay a lot closer attention.  When I'm riding my bike, I have to pay attention, of course.  I look at the road ahead and make sure I ride safely.  I listen for cars or other bikers and such to make sure I know where they are and can try not to create problems.  But I can also sing to my bike, ponder questions, do short bursts of higher energy riding, and so forth.  And the whole time, I'm outside, and usually (since I'm a fair weather biker) enjoying some fresh air, nice scenery, and so on.

When I'm grading, I have to pay pretty close attention to what I'm doing in order to try to figure out what and how to communicate to the student to help them understand how they've done on the assignment and (hopefully), to help them do better in the future. 

I know I'm not the only one who finds grading difficult.  Friends of mine do complex reward systems: grade so many of these, get some reward.  And so on.

People develop grading rubrics in hopes that they can put a few checks or circles on a piece of paper and satisfy students that the assignment has been evaluated fairly and that they know why they got the grade they did and how to do better in the future.

What do you do?

7 comments:

  1. I love grading because my autistic brain let's me do two things at the same time (and even in two different languages.) So grading is my time to catch up on all my favorite TV shows. It's like I have two different channels in my head that function independently of each other and don't interfere with each other's functioning.

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    1. Holy cow, that sounds useful! Alas, my brain doesn't do that.

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  2. I also dislike grading (and especially so when I have three sections of the same course, as I do again this year). The one thing that makes it better is thinking hard about that particular student for a moment before I start grading her paper; that makes it easier for me to remember that a real human being worked on this and that I'm trying to help her grow intellectually. It makes the grading seem more meaningful and less like a slog.

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    1. That's a great idea, What Now?!

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  3. Complex reward systems FTW! Usually involving a portion of a novel or a short youtube video.

    Also rubrics, though I write on their papers and not the rubric-- they get the rubric with the assignment if it's writing or with the solutions if it's a problem set.

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  4. I have a rubric with specific criteria and each gets a score of ten points (all papers are either worth 50 or 100 points). They get a score on each part of the rubric, then I write a longer comment that is usually 1/3 praise, 1/3 critique, and 1/3 encouragement for next time. I do also write on their papers. So to me, grading is a huge undertaking. My writing colleagues tell me all the time that I'm doing it wrong. But my students always make a lot of progress, so I don't know that I believe in other people's techniques. Plus, students ALWAYS say that they SO appreciate all the comments I give them and wish other teachers would do the same. So I don't know. With comp people constantly telling me (1) I'm wasting my time, and (2) I'm doing it wrong (yet the students love me), I pretty much try to avoid teaching writing when I can. That's not nice, though. I feel bad about it. But now that I'm chair, I don't really have room in my schedule for anything but lit classes. So there's my excuse.

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  5. I keep writing about this, because apparently the one best way to avoid grading is to write a blog post about it. (Example, if it's not too obnoxious to link to a post, is at http://notofgeneralinterest.blogspot.com/2012/12/the-get-it-done-grading-system.html) Other than that, though, I listen to music.

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