Welcome new readers!

The "New to the blog? Start here" page will give you an overview of the blog and point you to some posts you might be interested in. You can also subscribe to receive future posts via RSS, Facebook or Twitter using the links on the right-hand side of the page, or via email by entering your address in the box. Thanks for reading!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Grading followup

I mentioned at the start of the semester that I'd be trying a different approach to grading in the writing class this spring. I've finished grading the second big writing assignment and I have to say that although grading is taking just as long as it used to, I definitely notice a reduction in my level of stress about the process. There are two main things that I've changed: one, I am only assigning straight letter grades for papers (i.e., A, B, C or D, recorded as 4, 3, 2 or 1 in the Blackboard gradebook) and two, students are allowed to revise and re-submit papers as many times as they want, any time up until the last day of class, and I will use whatever grade they receive last (which will presumably be higher than where they started but only if they actually do the work).

Giving straight letter grades has greatly reduced my angst about assigning the score for the overall assignment. For the most part, it's pretty easy to tell B papers from C papers but what I really love is that I DON'T have to spend time trying to figure out if a B paper should get an 84, 85 or 86, and making sure whatever number I give one paper is consistent with the numbers I gave on other papers. I do note informally if I think there really should be a plus or minus attached, and that may come into play at the end of the semester but again, noting that a paper is a B+ is much easier than trying to decide if it's an 88 or an 89. So far, there have been two papers I just couldn't bring myself to give an A but they really were better than most B papers so I gave them a 3.5.

But even more than the straight letter grades, I think giving students the option to revise their papers is really what is making the biggest difference in my grading attitude. In the past, I would always have this internal struggle with myself about the comments I gave on papers. On the one hand, I want to give students specific and detailed comments so that they can see how to make their writing better. On the other hand, I know that many students will not even look at the comments (they just look at the grade) so why spend all that time? But by giving students the option to revise their papers for a higher grade, I free myself from making detailed suggestions about how to change things AND I feel like students may actually use the feedback I give them. Not giving detailed suggestions doesn't mean I don't give feedback - it means that now I am much more specific about WHY something is not working, but I don't necessarily give students an exact fix. For example, in the past, if a particular sentence were not clear, I would leave a comment like, "This isn't clear - it would work better if you re-wrote this as 'the higher prices cause demand to fall' instead". That is, my explanation of the problem would be a bit vague ('this is unclear', 'this jargon isn't appropriate', etc.) but I would try to give them a specific suggestion for a re-write that, by comparison, would make the problem more obvious and also help them see a way to fix things. But now, my explanation of the problem tends to be much more detailed (e.g., 'this sentence isn't clear because it sounds like demand falling is causing prices to go up instead of the other way around') but I do not give them a specific edit they can use to fix the problem, since I don't want them to just replace their words with mine and turn that in as a new revision. I do try to point them to other sources for specific help when possible (e.g., 'See the class notes about making sentences more direct'). This approach doesn't necessarily save me much time (though it is generally easier to tell them exactly what the problem is than to fix it for them) but I definitely notice a difference in my own attitude. That is, IF they decide to do a revision, I feel like I'm actually helping them but not doing the work for them, and if they don't do a revision, then I'm not "wasting" my time either.

In addition, I worry less if the grade I give them seems a little harsh (e.g., someone gets a straight B who would have gotten a B+ in the past) because they do have the option to do a little work and get a better grade. So i expect that I won't be getting any whining about grades.

So far, only one student has actually done a revision, though I expect at least a few others will be working on their papers over Spring Break...

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments that contribute to the discussion are always welcome! Please note that spammy comments whose only purpose seems to be to direct traffic to a commercial site will be deleted.