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Sunday, February 27, 2011

How to Grade Papers

You first need to block out some time. Somehow, papers do not grade themselves without some time devoted to them.

Get all the papers or tests you have to grade together, in one place. A folder or envelope helps.

You need a physical space in which to grade. It doesn't matter where, but papers need to graded in some specific place.

Some substances might come in handy. Caffeine or small amounts of alcohol. Some anger managements techniques might also be necessary.

I have bad handwriting and fast typing, so I type out my comments on the computer after correcting some grammar mistakes and putting some ?? and WTF and !! on them. (Usually I don't write WTF.) When I am done, I just insert page breaks between each student's comments and print the whole thing out, stapling or paper-clipping the sheet to the student's paper. That way I also have a computer file with all my comments and grades, so I can see what problems particular students have between one paper and the next.

Estimate how many papers you can do in an hour. For example, I could do one 20-page graduate paper in an hour, or 6 four-page undergraduate papers in the same time. Don't do the good ones first and save the bad for last. Rather, work more or less at random. Use the best ones to set the standard for what an A should be, and put papers in the order their rank, good to bad. Make sure a worse paper does not have a better grade.

I work one hour on, one hour off. So this evening, for example, I graded 6 paper between 7 and 8 p.m., then six more between 9 and 10. That leaves five more for the morning between 8 and 9.

I hate grading, but I also manage to be quick if I want to be.

If a student turns in a paper late, they do not get it back with the rest of the class, even if I have it graded already. I view the grading of a single batch of papers as a single task, and keep all the papers physically in one place until they are graded.


Clarissa said...

This is a very timely post as most of us move into the marathon of midterm grading. I'm planning to do all the grading before the spring break, so that the 11 days of spring break are completely free for an active spell of writing.

I will now go practice my anger management techniques. :-)

Andrew Shields said...

Anger management techniques are definitely necessary, when people constantly do exactly what you told them not to ...

Thomas said...

The best anger management technqiue is to remember the curve. Don't be too disappointed by the lower end, and remember to enjoy the As. It wouldn't be necessary to grade if no one deserved low ones.

Tanya Golash-Boza said...

I use a similar strategy in terms of grade for an hour, take a break. My breaks are usually shorter though - about ten minutes.

I also use rubrics. I give students very specific instructions, and then grade on each aspect of the assignment. For example, I will ask students to explain the relationship between neoliberalism and globalization. I will give them a certain amount of points for that. Then, I might ask them to provide an example of it. I give them another set of points. The papers tend to be all quite similar, and thus somewhat boring. But, easier to grade!

Jonathan said...

I don't use rubrics; I find they tend to over-award points for things that students should be doing anyway.