Holiday season is just around the corner! Yeah!!!
But wait, are you still supposed to grade the final papers and exams? Hmm…
Grading can definitely bring gratification, joy, and reflection, but only having several days to grade before the submission deadline may still cause stress and pressure. Are there some tips one could use to make the grading experience easier? What particular things does one need to pay attention to while grading? Our IC Office sincerely hopes the tips we gleaned in this blog post may answer some of your questions.
The time at the end of the semester can often be very stressful due to numerous deadlines and last-minute changes. To avoid that this stress potentially influences grading, one could first find a supportive environment where it is peaceful and comfortable enough to concentrate.
Instead of jumping into grading right away, spend some time on preparation and plan on grading strategy so that consistency and fairness can be maintained throughout. For example, to avoid potential biases,
consider the order of papers. Papers may be arranged alphabetically, randomly, or with names covered. Experiment and find out what works best for the habit, energy, and mood.
Additionally, reading five or six papers before grading helps one to get an idea of the average time spent on and the range of quality of each paper. Estimating the time spent on grading each paper gives one a better understanding of how much or how little time on a particular paper. Furthermore, stop grading if you feel tired, irritable, or bored. When starting again, read over the last couple of graded papers for review and consistency.
While additional techniques exist, there are two universally used grading methods: point score method which means points are broken down according to content sections or criteria, and holistic method which means a grade is based on the overall quality. Some people who prefer the former may grade based on criteria, such as analytical substance, argument structure, use of supporting material, quality of writing, persuasiveness, overall clarity, and internal consistency to name a few. In this case, one may find it necessary to create a rubric. A rubric offers the advantage to assess the quality of a student’s work based on different criteria. Furthermore, each criterion is broken down into levels of competency. When using rubrics, it is good practice to share it beforehand with students so that students are aware of assessment criteria for the specific assignment. An online tool called iRubric is available to assist faculty and instructor in the School of Education on the Bloomington campus with rubric development, assessment and sharing. One can find many free rubrics in the database and customize them for personal use. (Click here to refer to more information on iRubric)
However, in some cases holistic grading approach is preferred because rubrics do not cover all situations. For instance, when an assignment or project is left open for students to be creative in presenting forms (e.g., a drawing, a poem, a picture), more subjectivity will be involved in judging the overall quality and unique rationale of the work. Please keep in mind that students often desire a certain level of transparency regarding assessment methods, so it is suggested to record the rationale for any grade.
Question 3: How could I best use my teaching assistant in the grading process?
There are several ways to involve teaching assistants in the grading process. The instructor could discuss grading policies and standards to get their opinions and make adjustments as needed. If the teaching assistants are grading, the instructor should discuss the expectations about facets of grading and adopt appropriate group grading strategy. To ensure consistency, each section of an exam could be graded by the same teaching assistant. Another way is to work at the same time in the same place so teaching assistants can compare their grading policies and reach consensus when disputes arise.
If, as an IU instructor, you have to leave for a conference around the grade submission date, one and more grade proxies could be assigned through IU OneStart system. Grade proxies have the authorization to submit final grades for you without revealing your passwords to them. (Please click here if you want more information on assigning grade proxy)
To minimize potential students’ complaints about grading procedures, one should announce the grading scale, policies, and standards in the syllabus and avoid modifying them once published. When receiving a complaint, treat it as an important source of feedback which could be used for improving teaching. Please keep in mind that some complaints are more legitimate than others. The basic principle here is to be receptive and sympathetic, yet firm on these occasions since students are expected to show quality work and sound thinking. Be sure to make positive comments on students work and avoid grading by just taking off points instead of giving credit for good answers.
Last but not the least, plagiarism should always be a concern when grading. One handy tool to check writing originality is Turnitin. Students will be required to submit their writings online through Turnitin.com, which checks for possible plagiarism by comparing submitted papers to several databases. With this being said, the tool needs to be used with caution because the presumption of guilt may cause negative feelings in some students.
(Grading, Indiana University Teaching Handbook)
(Tips for Grading, Center for Teaching and Learning, Stanford University, Stanford CA)
(Grading Student Work by the Center for Teaching of Vanderbilt University)
(Collection of examples rubrics from the Office of Instructional Consulting at Indiana University)