Most teachers, including those like me who absolutely LOVE teaching, consider grading a chore. It is repetitive, and it takes a lot of time. Here are some tips I learned from Linda Nilson at Clemson University that can help make grading more effective:
1. Begin by sorting
Look over all the assignments quickly and sort them into categories such as: excellent, very good, OK, not so good, poor. Now that the harder decision is made, you can further save time if you:
2. Use a grading rubric
The more detailed your grading rubric, the less comments you have to write on assignments. All you have to do is highlight the category that applies. Just Google and learn how to create good grading rubrics. Even after providing feedback on a grading rubric, you feel you want to say more. In this case, consider doing the following:
3. Provide collective feedback
Write a note to the entire class and provide overall feedback without identifying any individuals. You can structure it like this:
Overall, excellent assignments showed these features, and had these kinds of mistakes:…… (make lists).
Overall, assignments that did not meet expectations did these things well but had these kinds of mistakes: … (make lists).
4. Outsource the grading onto students
One brilliant tip I remember from Linda is a win-win situation. If an assignment has lots and lots of minor errors (e.g. typos), return the graded assignment to student but do not point out every minor error. Tell the student that if s/he identifies X number of errors, s/he can get X number of lost points back. This is a very good learning experience for the student, and saves the teacher time.
There are many other tips out there, but these are the ones I know that have helped me a lot. If you are interested in learning more from Linda, check out her book:
This last one is from me:
5. Trust your first instinct
Beginning teachers spend a LOT of time double-guessing their decisions. You think this assignment is a B+, then spend 45 minutes arguing with yourself, only to arrive at the same decision that it is a B+. Trust your first instinct. Be confident. You’re usually right. If you’re not, be on the student’s side and try to see how they can do better and earn a higher grade. Usually tip #1 above helps reduce agonizing time.
What other tips do you have that can make grading more effective?
University professors… are curious forms of life. …They think of their bodies as transport for their heads.
We educate children only from the waist up, focusing on their brain, and that too, only one side of it.
Jillian isn’t sick: She’s a dancer.
If all insects were to disappear from the planet, life on Earth would vanish in 50 years. If all humans were to disappear from the planet, all forms of life would flourish.
These are a few quotes that stood out to me in this brilliant TED talk about education, given by Sir Ken Robinson. If you’re an educator, you owe it to yourself and your students to spend 15 minutes to watch it:
Hello, my name is Mihaela. My job IS to kill creativity.
Here’s how I try to try not to:
I’m very, very cautious, I try to treat it like a fragile and precious rare flower.:
- I try, as much as I can, knowing I will always fail, to remove fear out of the classroom. But I still have to give grades, so it’s impossible to do away with fear. If you read my blog before, you know fear in education is one important theme on PR Connections.
- I try to encourage students. I ask them to give themselves a break, not be harsh on themselves. I compliment them a lot. Yesterday I taught strategy. I asked students to create strategies for some case studies. They were hesitant to share, afraid they were wrong. I kept telling them it’s the first ever time they’re doing it, and they only had 20 seconds to think about it. It’s OK if your strategies suck. Guess what, they didn’t. But how many times do we grade students on their first attempt at something? 90%, I’m guessing.
- I remove students, as much as possible, from modes of writing (research papers) that have conditioned their minds to be numb. I ask them to email or blog assignments instead of writing APA style papers. I ask them to create videos, dance, or perform, their final project. I will be (and I am) a persona non grata in my department for stating this publicly (we live for APA papers, and we do exactly what Sir Ken Robinson says: try to make them all university professors).
But here’s what I think: If you change the medium, you change the way they think. Ask them to write in a new medium, one that they haven’t been conditioned to fear and be constipated about and write like a mindless robot (see Richard Landham on the need to un-teach students how to write) – and guess what: Students’ writing comes to life, you all of a sudden see ideas, thoughtfulness, soul!But many times they choose to write APA style papers. Because it’s too late, because they’re scared to do otherwise, because they can’t think of anything else. So sad.
So, if you’re a teacher or a professor, what do you do to (not) kill creativity?
If you’re a subject of education (and we all were students at some point), teach me: What can I do to protect your creativity, or maybe even encourage it to grow?
“Yet I believe that school should be a safe place, the way home is supposed to be. A place where you belong, where you can grow and express yourself freely, where you know and care for the other people and are known and cared for by them, a place where people come before information and ideas. School needs to comprehend the relationship between the subject matter and the lives of students, between teaching and the lives of teachers, between school and home.” (J. Tompkins, A Life in School, p. 127)
“Fear is what prevents the flowering of the mind.” (Krishnamurthi)
(Thank you, Cheryl, for pointing out these quotations to me 🙂
How much of what you do, or what the people who work for you do, is motivated by fear?
We talked at EDB about using twitter with students: the benefits, the drawbacks, the logistics – including the 48 hours of twitter assignment that Karen Russell and Kaye Sweetser use. One logistical issue was to help the students find and follow each other among the professor’s long list of followers. Karen Russell solved this problem by getting a new account to use with her class. However, one thing I like about twitter is the help I sometimes get from other people who jump in the class discussion. Creating a new account would make it impossible for my students to meet my twitter community.
Here are the 2 solutions I found, and I document them here so other instructors can use them (and so I don’t forget them!).
1) – ask students to use a specific number (or other set of characters) as part of their twitter user names. For example, the course number, or any other random number. Then, they can scroll through the list of followers and follow all the other people whose user names contain that number. This works well, but sometimes students dislike interfering with their freedom to create a user name they like. The second solution solves this problem, too:
2) – e-mail students a distinct, clearly different image that your other followers are unlikely to use and ask all students to upload that image as their twitter icon. Instruct students to scroll through your list of followers and follow all the people identified by that particular image. After the students have identified and followed all the other class members, they can upload their own photo to their twitter profile.
Another challenge is to keep track of a conversation students carry on a particular topic. Their tweets might get lost among the tweets of others you’re following. Ask your student to use hashtags (#) followed by a specific code so that Twemes will collect all (in theory, at least) the posts on that topic. For example, we discussed symbolic interactionism in my Communication Theory class and marked all tweets about it with #si. You can see the resulting conversation indexed on twemes. I noticed Twemes didn’t pick up ALL students’ posts, so I wouldn’t rely on it to assign participation points, at least not yet.
Do you have other practical solutions or ideas for using twitter in higher education? Please share them in the comments!
Need more on twitter? Here are some of my favorite links:
- simple explanation of twitter (video) – via Kelli Matthews on twitter
- “twitter is my village” – this blog post explains what twitter means in someone’s life
- another explanation of twitter as community
- case study of the Frozen Pea movement – demonstrates the power of twitter
- thoughtful post about the many uses of twitter with links to other posts on how to make the best out of twitter
- using twitter for academia: blog post – Chronicle of Higher Ed video – Campus Technology interview