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My parents had a friend who taught English at the local university who worked long past the age he was eligible to retire. He quite cheerfully insisted that he would continue to teach until he couldn't face grading another paper.  And he finally reached that point, retired, and continued to be cheerful for the next few years.  

Grading is the great challenge of teaching.  It is repetitive (no matter how often you change the assignment), at times frustrating (when submissions don't follow the guidelines you have laid out), and even depressing (when students do badly).  Tests and papers, short written assignments, and projects, all are usually more of a slog than a joy.

Don't get me wrong -- there are those tests and essays and papers which, after reading them, make me want to pump my fist in the air and do a jig.  She GOT it!!!  He really taught me something new!!!   THAT humorous essay on the test really is clever and accurate, and I laughed out loud (yay!).  But the majority are usually a bit boring and there are some that are just painful.

So why do we do it?  What is the value of assigning a similar task that results in a similar submission from year to year?  And why do you grade things at all?  How do you work out ways to avoid the challenging and frustrating and get the worthwhile aspects out of the classes?

Follow me below the fold, but know in advance (yes, this is a spoiler) -- I don't necessarily have any answers to these questions that convince me, let alone anyone else.

Assigning a paper or setting an exam is a way to measure progress of the individual student, to assess skills, knowledge, and what he or she is learning.  If I don't assign these sorts of things, it becomes really hard for me to know how a single person is doing among a class of 40 (I classes between 40 and 45 students and one of 25, so I don't know who is who until the end of the semester, if then).  Grading each paper or test allows me to give students feedback on progress, to let them know what they are learning or not learning that overlaps with what I emphasize in the classroom.  It also gives me a way to interact with even those students who do not come to my office to ask for help.  In paper grading I do a bit of proofreading as well as adding suggestions for improvement in organization and research resources.  

I don't give a single assignment in any of my classes, whether test or paper or short written project, that is not a stage in a final project, or one of two or three submissions under the same template, because I want to give the students a chance to improve their writing/studying/reasoning over the course of the semester.  I can show improvement to the students and improvement to myself.  If students don't improve, on the other hand, I have a clear problem which needs a solution -- are my instructions and comments so convoluted that they are unfollowable?  Is the assignment not one that can be completed in the time frame or with the preparation that students have before the class or get in the course itself?  So grading is a chance for me to evaluate myself and/or my activities and assignments as well as to provide feedback and numerical marks to my students.

I see grading as part of the "scaffolding" we do throughout a major program and through the university career of a student.  Someone does a freshman writing class, and a capstone project that often includes writing in the senior year.  How one gets from the freshman level to the senior level in knowledge, skills, ability to make logical connections across disciplines, and to construct and express a complex argument, is what we are trying to teach our students.  Some of that is from the classroom activities, but some of it is from the work the student does individually in the library, in front of the computer.  The thinking that goes into the best papers needs to be encouraged, writing can always be improved, and the framework (vocabulary, chronology, formulae) needs to be understood.  Even though the setting is somewhat confrontational at best, testing and papers are really the best way I have found to interact with individual students, particularly when they don't come to my office to ask questions and sit at the back of the classroom and don't invest themselves visibly in what is going on during class time.  

The way I grade is to randomly select 5 papers or assignment submissions and read them quickly (making comments, as I always make comments), rank them, and then take a short break (time for a cup of tea, perhaps).  Then I set others into the range these create.  I don't generally start assigning any letter or numerical grades at all until late in the process, when I really know how the range will fall.  This means I go at a relatively reasonable pace.  I still have trouble getting them turned around as quickly as I would like, however, because I do tend to write pretty extensively on them, which slows me down.  But I always figure that it is better to give students useful feedback and explain the marks they are getting than just glance over a paper, write a letter grade at the top, and hand it back to them at the next class period.

So I am working my way through many many papers this weekend, and tests next week.  This evening, I think I am going to light a fire in the fireplace, put on some music at really low volume (I find non-vocal is easier to have in the background when grading), spread out a blanket on the floor, get a purple or green pen, and go through at least 20 short papers.  At least that is my goal.  Ah, the exciting life of a college professor...

Why do you grade?  Why do you even make assignments?  And how do you cope?

Originally posted to annetteboardman on Sat Sep 29, 2012 at 12:05 PM PDT.

Also republished by Teachers Lounge and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Bleh. I have 5th and 6th grade music. (8+ / 0-)

    We have to grade on an E/S/N scale.  And it's mostly for behavior and participation.  I can give assessments--in fact, I HAVE to because I have to measure student progress because of state regs.

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Sat Sep 29, 2012 at 12:20:12 PM PDT

  •  Taking a break from grading (13+ / 0-)

    to write this comment.  I just finished the first of two sections of AP Latin tests.  For high school and middle school, one of the main purposes of a test is to give students the incentive to study material.  Attaching a grade to something, even for the very best students, motivates them.  Without a grade attached to it, most students would not put in their best effort.  I was like that as a student and I'm sure that I was the rule, not the exception.  Tests force students to keep pace with the class and polish their skills on a routine basis.  

    As test writing goes, my goal is always to craft an exam that will allow my students to demonstrate what they know and how well they know it.  If I wanted to, I could write a test that every student would fail, but there is no positive outcome to such a test.  I may write tricky questions, but I don't write trick questions.  Trick questions are meant to confuse the student, a tricky question is meant to make them think.  At the end of the day, that's really what my job is all about.  I try to teach kids to think.  The material I teach is just a tool to do that.  The vast majority of my students will not take Latin after high school, but the lessons they learn in my class will stick with them for life.

    I don't mind paying taxes. If I wanted to live in a libertarian paradise where everyone's actions were guided by rational self-interest, I'd move to Somalia.

    by TeacherH on Sat Sep 29, 2012 at 12:29:52 PM PDT

  •  Three different courses, three approaches. (6+ / 0-)

    One course is an upper-level clinical course in the major. Most of the grade for that one comes from some very intense high-stakes multiple-choice tests that are as similar to the licensure exam as I can make them. The course also includes a lot of mandatory-but-ungraded assignments/activities which force students to engage with the material on an application/analysis level. I could write a book about how I have arrived at the current design for this course.

    The seminar course is all writing; no tests and no quizzes. That one kicks my ass every semester. Students write a small assignment every week, mostly to demonstrate that they've done the required reading. They also work on one big paper throughout the semester, for which I provide grades and feedback for each step.

    I'm teaching my first large(ish) lecture course this year. I'm sticking mostly to multiple-choice tests and pre-fabricated online quizzes, but I did assign eight small homework assignments. That's my grading burden for this weekend-- I need to mark a deep stack of those assignments so I can return them on Monday.

  •  I have saddled myself with an enormous amount (4+ / 0-)

    of grading, but I figure it's in my students' best interest.

    However, to cut down on the amount of a) paper and b) hand writing of responses, which tires me out like nothing else can, I require that almost all of their assignments be turned in electronically through the class course-management sites. That makes it possible for me to look at it more like responding to an e-mail, rather than the hard work of grading. And I agree with you that everything is scaffolded so that they are continually working up to the final things they must do in my class (in my case, a research paper).

    "Compassion is not weakness, and concern for the unfortunate is not socialism." - Hubert Humphrey

    by Killer of Sacred Cows on Sat Sep 29, 2012 at 02:23:07 PM PDT

  •  Time for them and time for me (7+ / 0-)

    I teach high school English. I try not to give exams at all, just papers. The papers that I enjoy the most, grading and commenting on, are the short ones. I find that I can give useful comments on their writing and their thought processes and have a really quick turnaround. But the standard five-paragraph essays, of which I have 100 in my email inbox, I have come to realize that I have to grade every other weekend. I just cannot give them all the insights and ideas I would like to if I'm getting resentful of my lack-of-life.

    The reward is knowing that I am using my skills and knowledge to develop the skills in my students. Watching the movement from not understanding what a thesis statement is to one that reflects original thoughts and insights is a thing of beauty, worthy of sacrifice.

    And then there's always the grading-free summer!

  •  Formal vs Informal (9+ / 0-)

    I find that the longer I teach, the fewer formal assessments I give. I teach a subject were developing creativity and applying the design process is a undercurrent of all the courses taught. When I first started teaching I graded everything and gave copious amounts of assessments. As time went on, I found that many of the assessments got in the way of developing creativity and were unnecessary as formal assessments.

    In the last few years, and given the current research in developing creativity, I've taken this even further by making most of the preliminary assignments ungraded. These are typically developmental assignments for the larger unit that I can check quickly as students work. They are broken down enough so that a student must demonstrate the concept to be successful and progress, or else they need to rework and I can reteach. I generally don't tell them up front that the assignment is ungraded. They still have to turn it in. But instead of a grade, they just get feedback, usually directly from me one on one.

    What I've found is that once the pressure of a grade is removed from everything they do - especially early assignments where they are just learning the technique of subject - I get two pronounced results. First students experiment more and are more willing to take risks in applying a concept. This leads to them embracing the material rather than worrying about how their work will be graded. Second, I spend less time grading and more time interacting directly with students. This also has a second benefit of improving instruction and strengthening the student's work in progress, which leads to greater achievement on the formal assessments in the overall unit as well as the major projects that capstone them.

    Imagination is more important than knowledge. Albert Einstein

    by michael in chicago on Sat Sep 29, 2012 at 03:23:17 PM PDT

  •  University professor here (7+ / 0-)

    In engineering. In the required subjects I teach, I have to give a written exam—for courses that rely heavily on computers. Needless to say, this is completely unhelpful.

    However, I have slowly modified the structure of the exams I've given. There are no more questions that are "what are the X properties of Y" or "fill in this diagram"; these questions don't tell me if students have actually learned the material. Instead, I ask questions that force students to use those definitions and analyze problems.

    In the elective courses, I have the freedom to give projects in lieu of a final exam. This is much more useful, because it allows students to do something that interests them in the purview of the course material. I find that much more exciting—and I get to learn something from it, too! The challenge, of course, is figuring out how to compare apples and oranges when assigning final grades. Which of those projects is "the best?" How much better is it? Where do I draw the line between projects of differing quality? How much emphasis do I put on the presentation relative to the work performed?

    Luckily, the burden of grading is not too onerous in either case—I grade the exams in the mandatory classes with a team of TA's and tutors, so we're done in a day, and the elective courses have only a handful of students each semester, so it doesn't take too much longer.

  •  First, consider the purpose. (6+ / 0-)

    I retired 6 years ago. One of the classes I taught was Measurement and Evaluation for education students. Grading was one of the topics we discussed. I started by asking, "Why do we assign grades?" I got a long list of responses. Then I handed out an essay by Alfie Kohn, "From Degrading to De-grading." Kohn summarizes problems associated with assigning letter grades.

    I like your approach:

    Grading each paper or test allows me to give students feedback on progress, to let them know what they are learning or not learning that overlaps with what I emphasize in the classroom.  It also gives me a way to interact with even those students who do not come to my office to ask for help.  In paper grading I do a bit of proofreading as well as adding suggestions for improvement in organization and research resources.  
    That gets at the real purpose of reading and responding to students' assignments and tests: to help students learn.

    I did not try to rank or assign letter grades to tests and assignments. The purpose was to provide feedback to the students (and to me). I was required to turn in letter grades at the end of the course. I found a way to assign grades that the students liked and the administration accepted.

    •  This: (3+ / 0-)
      The purpose was to provide feedback to the students (and to me).
    •  Sadly, where I teach, if students don't get (3+ / 0-)

      a letter grade, they have one of two problems (for the most part).

      With earnest students, their problem is that they don't know how they are doing because they only understand their performance within the context of a letter grade. I don't want to spend my semester retraining them; I have too much else to teach them.

      With students who don't prioritize learning (for whatever reason, there are many), they just don't bother to do the work. Other more pressing needs intervene if there is no stick to the carrot.

      Of course there are always students who work hard and achieve because they want to learn; with them, their grade is easy because their effort and intensity makes their coursework excellent. They respond to feedback and do the work necessary to improve and learn.

  •  I am experimenting. (6+ / 0-)

    I teach high school math.  I want to give less grades.  I have seen in 25+ years of teaching that learning stops when a number is given.   So, instead I want to grade skills rather than problem sets.  

    To do this I gather evidence either by looking at homework or work done in class and giving a score of 0-4 (no skill-mastery) on a spreadsheet.  The grades are dynamic, they can go down if they regress in the skill.  Formation of the spreadsheet is the hardest part, but I can see the gaps in knowledge quickly and work to address those.  

    I still give tests.

    Does it work?  Get back with me in December!  

    Any thoughts?  Suggestions?  Anyone else tried this?

    Sent via African Swallow carrying a coconut

    by ipaman on Sat Sep 29, 2012 at 04:12:22 PM PDT

    •  Indeed (7+ / 0-)

      I've also seen that learning stops when a number is given.  Capable students decide they don't need to know more than their 93% got them, and struggling students lose hart at a 68%.  So I'm experimenting this year by not putting grades on papers.  I've still got to record the grades in the grade book, but students' first response to the papers handed back cannot be to the grade but to the detailed comments I've left them.  It's too early to report on the effects, but I'll ask the students to reflect on that at some point; see what they have to say.

      Are you just going to gripe about it, or are you going to do something to change it?

      by smithbm on Sat Sep 29, 2012 at 04:58:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I am of mixed feelings about this (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I'm doing my student teaching (high school English) and one of my classes (2 sections) is a Freshman Seminar class, a quarter-length class which is a supplement to their regular English class. It's very free as to what I do, as long as I am working on skill-building, writing most of all. It's pass-fail, so I really don't have to grade. They do a lot of prompt writing, but often fun stuff. I just read and comment (and I LOVE this).

        However, this is not a regular English class. And, since I'm still an undergraduate student myself, if I got a prof that didn't grade, I'd be pissed. I'm 47 years old. If I'm back in school at my age, I don't need to be prodded to learn. What I need is a GPA and a Cum Laude to put on my damn resume. I'm in this for a JOB: teaching. You'd better be telling me what the numbers are.

        And, at my age, with 2 kids and (up until now) working full-time, I do not have the time to become your shining perfect student. You're damn right a 93 is good enough, because I have to work until 2 am and I have 2 other papers due.

        "Maybe: it's a vicious little word that could slay me"--Sara Bareilles

        by ChurchofBruce on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 12:00:55 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Haven't graded anything for five years. (6+ / 0-)

    That's because I retired from the classroom in '07. Before then I graded tons and tons of stuff. I taught high school physics  my whole career. I believed in regular and varied assignments, two or three a week. Each student needed different opportunities to show what they knew and could communicate. Problem assignments were pretty standard fare. Lab reports were more of a challenge. They take a long time. Sometimes, I asked students to only hand in their data and any charts or graphs. Other times, it might be the conclusion. Or, it might be the procedure used.

    If kids argued about a point or two here or there, I told them grading was inexact. There were margins of error. Remind me at report card time if that point or two makes a difference in your grade. It never did.

    Bottom line...grading is a lot of work. Be consistent and fair. Let them know what you expect.

    The difference between stupidity and genius...genius has limits. ~ Einstein

    by jim in IA on Sat Sep 29, 2012 at 04:45:55 PM PDT

  •  What do you know? (5+ / 0-)

    Here I am grading exams all day long.  The students did I shall give a retake exam to try to rescue as many as I can.

  •  I do a lot of grading. A lot. (7+ / 0-)

    And almost all of that grading is for writing assignments. Even my tests require mostly writing, with a few true/false questions thrown in for good measure.

    I wholeheartedly believe in writing as the best gauge of a student's understanding. And because most of the courses I teach are not so-called writing classes, I'm freed from the necessity of laborious attention to grammar and organization, and can focus most of my energy on their understanding and ability to express that understanding coherently. Not that I ignore grammar and organization entirely ...

    It takes me a long time to grade. I have to wander around and do other things to clear my head.

  •  I am giving a mid-term next week, since (6+ / 0-)

    I will be out of town (in Istanbul) for a conference. I am teaching a big intro class, so the TAs and I all grade the exams. I try to read a few very good ones and very weak ones first to get an idea of the range. Then I work through the rest of the exams. Since each of us read one-quarter of the papers, we look at the range and average grades for each of us to make sure that we are being consistent. We also discuss the papers that are difficult to grade. My exams include essays, since I like to see how the students write.

  •  Make the assessments more exciting and the grading (5+ / 0-)

    becomes less of a chore.

     Instead of a thesis, make the assessment a presentation with a rubric that includes an admonishment that a boring power point will put the professor to sleep, and thus the grade will suffer as well.  Instead of an essay test over a read literature piece, have a group act out a portion of it with special attention to the symbolism, theme or character analysis or whatever connection you are trying to determine that the student was supposed to have made. Art and art pieces created by students can also be used in multiple ways to determine mastery of certain subjects.

    I was very fortunate to have received multiple degrees in education and the one I received in early education and early childhood development has helped me tremendously in my higher education career.  I spent my early years teaching young children in title 1 schools and that urban education experience taught me how to glean information out of the hardest to reach children.  With that knowledge, I have taken the fun and excitement of education in the early stages and brought it with me to college.  Adults respond very well to a classroom full of different approaches, laughter, colorful ways of assigning and assessing and fun.  

  •  I wish (8+ / 0-)

    every student (and parent) could read this diary and the comments here. There's not a method or comment here that I could disagree with, and each demonstrates the great care and thought teachers give to assessment of their students' performance. So many times, I had to deal with the irate parents who were convinced that the only reason I gave their child the grade I did was because I "didn't like" their child, or because I simply didn't appreciate "real creativity." (I taught AP English, btw - as well as remedial reading.) Our staff actually tried doing away with traditional grading scales, but had to abandon it after parents rose in protest. And that was OK - if anything, complaints about grades were reduced for awhile after that. As an English teacher who believed, simply, that the way one learns to write (and think) is through writing, I spent an ungodly number of hours each week reading and grading essays - easily an additional forty hours a week on top of my regular schoolday hours. And yes, I did finally retire when I could no longer endure the prospect of one more weekend devoted to reading and grading student work.

    •  I understand this frustration; especially given (4+ / 0-)

      that generally a teacher/professor writes very well and thus reading sub par written pieces over and over again is monotonousness at best.

      I also wanted to clarify that even when you choose to differentiate assessments, there is always need for a paper to be written and  tests to determine simple recall of facts.  In other words, sometimes the boring is necessary.  A student must learn to write well in order to progress in higher ed and a student must learn the basic fundamental facts and held accountable for that knowledge, in order to move to next level in their degree program.  However, a teacher can cut the humdrum with assessments added to the curriculum that are different and exciting for the student.  

      I teach English and Political Science, with a law degree I have but never used except to teach, because I couldn't stomach being a lawyer. (so I went into education...not sure how strong my stomach was for that particular decision :)  )  

       In both subjects, the written word has to be assessed and facts have to be mastered, but I would shoot myself if that was the only way I ever had to assess and grade.  Sometimes it takes convincing a department chair of this enlightenment, if boring assessments are the only way they see things.   The easiest way for me to get around that issue was to become the chair myself and then go about changing boring teachers' way of thinking. :)

  •  Grading is a sop; assignments are heuristic (7+ / 0-)

    I'm one of those ideal A sorts (an A is an A, and not a relative A), and I spend immense amounts of time devising my tests so that they alternate between recall and application and synthesis and creation.
    [1. My friend said, 'The gas prices have gone up ever since Obama became president.' This fallacy is: a. non sequitur, b. ad hominem, c. agumentum ad rem d. post hoc ergo propter hoc. 2. Name which fallacy is occurring in the following: "The private sector added 80,000 jobs last month. In the month prior, it added 200,000 jobs. Over the last year, it has added more than 460,000 jobs. This economic depression is never going to end." ... 7. Write your own example of an argument by analogy.] These are the "hardest" tests, because they assess different methods of memory and mastery.

    However, I am now convinced that writing the paper is the educational experience, and not my terminal comment. Furthermore, my assessment is always of the past and not the present, and therefore I do not like to rely on it. I present students with theoretical information, but they won't learn it until they have something to use it on. That's what the papers do, and I'd be happy giving Pass/Fail/Superior marks.

    That said, the students want gradations between degree of error. They think in past performances as products rather than as frames in the running film of education. From an educational point of view, how poorly you understood analysis last week is somewhat irrelevant if writing the paper taught you about it and you understand it now.

    --Oh, and I would rather clean up after my puppy with my bare hands than grade papers.

    If money is the root of all evil, then what is Mitt Romney?

    by The Geogre on Sat Sep 29, 2012 at 06:43:56 PM PDT

  •  The wisest comment I ever heard about teaching... (9+ / 0-)

    "I love teaching. They don't have to pay me to teach.  They DO have to pay me to grade papers and go to meetings"

  •  On grading papers (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annetteboardman, mamamedusa

    I teach, among other course, freshman writing.

    When it comes to grading the papers, I have a set of expectations for each paper that expands throughout the semester.  

    I expect each paper to be an A by meeting those expectations.  When it doesn't, it is my obligation to identify the reasons why it isn't an A.

    Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens.

    by MoDem on Sat Sep 29, 2012 at 09:44:58 PM PDT

  •  I'm a remedial writing instructor (6+ / 0-)

    at a large urban university. I teach freshmen who did not pass the entrance test with a high enough score to take basic first year composition. These students are so downhearted, so think they are stupid and not good writers that it's a challenge to help them overcome their negative self talk. That said, they write beautifully as far as truth and integrity and ideas go  - just not with the excellent grammar that luckier, richer, more educated students use.
    So while I don't give all A's, it's difficult to get less than a C+ in my classes unless you are not doing the work. I write lots of notes and write in the margins, which some kids read and some don't. I think we need to get over the idea that standard white middle class English is all their is.

    •  We talk with our students all the time (4+ / 0-)

      about there being many versions of English.  I teach them to write in a version that is appropriate to the material.  In my historically-based classes, it is a formal scholarly tone that I am going for.  In my interdisciplinary classes it is much looser, but the grammar has to be right, because of the audience.  If they are doing creative fiction or non-fiction (I seldom have that, although it has been used in the interdisciplinary category), then the "rules" can be loosened, but it has to be conscious.  You need to know what you are doing to not do it in a convincing way.

    •  Oooooh, BTDT (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      annetteboardman, mamamedusa

      Kind of doing it now except at a small college and not a large, urban university, and technically not in writing courses, although almost the only "testing" I do is writing.

      I no longer technically teach remedial writing courses, but almost all my students need extensive remediation in writing, so writing is still the core of my teaching.

      It is heartbreaking work more often than not, but so, so important. In fact, I consider it the highest form of political activism: exposing underserved minority students to the most sophisticated materials possible and helping them achieve the highest possible levels of writing proficiency.

      On rare occasions, I envy people who only teach well-prepared students who lack the baggage my kids have. Sometimes---but not often.

  •  My first big project comes in on Tuesday: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annetteboardman, mamamedusa

    a 4-part analysis and comparison of two web sites (they do a lot of preliminary work before the analysis that gets included, and which integrates specifics from the assigned reading, or else they wouldn't do the reading).

    That is a grading behemoth and takes me a long time, because I have to view the websites they choose (about 80 overall) to see if their work is even in the ballpark.

    And they have their first test on Thursday (which I need to make: short answer. I grade it by hand). The tests are depressing to grade because the scores always fall on a low curve and I wish they could do better. But they need various work and various assessment conditions, so between writing, technical exercises, studio projects (designing web sites that work, so technical, formal and conceptual) and exams, they get the range of experience.

    The class is beginning web design with a huge technical focus (hand-coded html5 and css), but since they will also design sites with their own content, they need to learn formal design skills and  about web-appropriate content. They learn a lot in a semester but it is exhausting!

  •  Writing is such an important skill (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annetteboardman, mamamedusa

    I'm also a university instructor (Earth Science) and do a few writing assignments, especially for extra credit.  I especially love it when I get some of the students to visit the university writing lab, because the results are often better.

    Though the number of students in introductory courses limits the number of papers that can be assigned (at least without grading help for those lucky enough to have a GTA), I do think it is important to work them in where possible.  Prior to coming back to teach, I worked in the consulting business.  One of the greatest limits on people's ability to move up within the company was their writing skill.  The end product of our efforts were reports, so the ability to summarize and synthesize material was crucial to the success of the company.  People's writing skills rarely improved that much on the job, so it was really the skills that they developed during high school and at university that determined whether they ever got a promotion.

    While the grading can be painful at times, I also find humor in some other typos and errors.  In one writing assignment on a Mt. St. Helens video, I had multiple students talk about the mountain erupting pumas.  I'm pretty sure they intended to write pumice, but pumas passed the spell checker.  I still get a giggle thinking about a volcano erupting mountain lions.

  •  Grading! Ouch! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    How appropriate that I'm reading this post while I'm sitting in a Starbucks grading midterm papers!  Like most professors, I really hate grading written work.  It tends to be incredibly boring.  So why do it? Because true learning only occurs through creation.  In some cases that means other types of assessments, such as physically constructed projects -- but in the context of many disciplines, such as my own, the primary form of creation is written.  Challenging students to create something is not only the best way to truly evaluate if they are understanding the concepts I'm trying to teach, but also a critical way in which students actually learn -- the difficult mental exercise of wrestling with ideas and then pinning them to the mat with clear logic and evidence.  That's how we develop our intellectual muscles! Of course, I use written exercises for other purposes as well -- for instance, I do have some assignments that are primarily designed to ensure that students are actually doing the reading :)

    How do I keep it from becoming overwhelming?  In most cases I use some form of electronic submission.  For most assignments I'm using, which not only helps ensure that students are copying but provides me an efficient way to read papers and comment upon them.  I'm particularly delighted with the Grademark function which allows me to keep a clipboard of commonly used comments.  We tend to make the same comments on student papers over and over again -- this feature allows me to semi-automate the process.  For instance, a very common problem I encounter is an inability to construct a proper topic sentence -- I always include a basic "Topic Sentence" comment on my clipboard to help students.  The clipboard allows me to give students quite a lot of feedback and guidance without having to write the same thing over and over again.

    •  Ouch! Redux! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Re-reading my post I realize I wrote "ensure that students are copying" -- I meant ensure that they're NOT copying.

      Oy vey

      Blame it on reading too many student papers -- brain gone to mush.

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