Monday, October 08, 2007

The Grading Grind

I got a new stack of first year writing papers this morning; other than that stack, though, I'm completely caught up on my grading. I was a busy grader this weekend and this morning.

I spent a lot of time this weekend grading peer editing responses. Basically, I have my first year writing students work together in class on peer editing; each reads his/her work aloud, and a small group of peers gives oral feedback. But then the peers take home the written work and write a fuller response. Each student makes two copies of that response and gives them to the writing peer. The writer reads the responses and writes a response to each response, saying explicitly what was most helpful and what s/he'd like more help with. The writer then hands that response in to me.

I read and grade the reponses on a basic level, record the grades, and return the response to the respondent so that each respondent gets a peer's feedback on his/her response along with my feedback.

It's time-consuming because it means I have to read twice as many responses as there are students in the class (assuming groups of three). It also takes class time to do the paper exchange and have writers respond to the responses.

But, I was very happy to see that most students really improved their written peer response this time (compared to the peer editing for their first paper). I think they're capable, but aren't really in the habit of putting serious effort into another person's work. Once they realize that the effort counts for them, then they respond accordingly.

The next step is to see how the papers match up.


My biggest grading frustration this weekend came from essays for another class. One of the papers was especially frustrating because the writer's clearly smart and capable, but didn't respond to the assignment at all.

So, okay piece of writing, but doesn't address the assignment. Frustrating.

I don't mean to stifle creativity or anything, but I give assignments for fairly serious pedagogical reasons. I expect my students to learn from the assignments; the assignments aren't just a measuring device of how much has already been learned. So not addressing the assignment means the student didn't take the opportunity to learn from the assignment, and thus probably didn't learn what the assignment is after teaching.

I'm tired of students complaining that they don't understand X in a piece of writing, and then when I ask them, they admit that they didn't bother to look up X in a dictionary. We use a pretty specific and technical vocabulary in English studies; if you don't know what metonymy is, and an essay (in an English course) focuses on a problem in metonymy, then maybe you should look it up?

I need to eat dinner and get started on the next set of essays!


  1. When they don't respond to the assignment, I begin to wonder whose class it was written for originally....

  2. Anonymous5:31 AM

    I don't think that's stifling creativity at all. it takes more creativity to do come up with something original to say within the bounds of an assignment that it does to just...pretend like there never was an assignment.

  3. Inside, It was clearly written for my class; no one else in the area assigns the essay this guy was ranting at.

    Anastasia, And doing the assignment might actually make it a useful learning experience...