Grading Horribilis

As most professors know, grading is the worst part of the job. The task itself is tedious, shortcuts are taken, and passing judgment on students – and what amounts to a reflection of your own work as a teacher – can be difficult.

However, I think it is important to recognize that we usually set ourselves up for this problem. Higher education is optional education, so assignments and grading can be far more creative than is typically the case. I have outlined my approach to this in The Lean Professor and in the blog post “Assessing Assessment Methods,” where I introduce the concept of “pull assessment” (vs. “push”).

I follow these rules to make assignments and grading more meaningful for students and less of a burden on me yet also more interesting:

  • Reduce the amount of material covered in the course.
  • Ask questions that you can learn something from or find the answer interesting.
  • Focus assignments and grading on 3 or 4 key learning outcomes.
  • Introduce weekly repetition of assignments to reinforce the 3 or 4 key learning outcomes.
  • Eliminate mid-term and final exams to improve actual learning (vs. memorization skills or test-taking abilities).

What are the benefits of doing this?

  • The grades given more accurately represent student learning.
  • Less grad inflation.
  • Less conflict with students over assignments and grades.

If grading is the worst part about your job, then do something to improve it that benefits both you and your students. Try new things, improve, then repeat.

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