Tuesday, October 16, 2007

guest response re the grading diet

[submitted by guest blogger Hillary Burgess, an adjunct at Rutgers Law School - Camden]

More on the Grading Diet

Hats off to Professor Liemer for being able to put herself on a grading diet and (presumably) stick to it. I love the suggestion, but have to admit, I'm not sure I'm that disciplined. Like my "no-junk-food-in-the-house" forced diet, I have forced myself onto a grading diet by varying the due dates on my course schedules across sections or within sections.

For example, one semester, I was teaching 3 courses: Class A had 60 students with 3 papers, Class B had 40 students with 4 papers, and Class C had 20 students with 5 papers. I scattered the due dates so that papers for class Class C were due week 2, 7, and 12, Class B were due 5, 10, and 15, and Class C were due 4, 6, 9, 11, and 14. (Note, I gave myself the full 10 days to grade the 60 papers by not having any papers due week 1, 3, 8, and 13.) Of course, I had to structure the lectures so that the papers were due on pedagogically sound deadlines, but with a bit of thought, I've found a pedagogically sound schedule that won't drive me more crazy than I was born can often be created.

I've also done so within a class where I divide my students up into tracks according to career interest and provide specific assignments that focus on the topic and/or specific writing assignment of their intended career. Eg. A brief could have criminal law as one topic and contract law as a different topic. Tracks have different due dates, one week apart, which forces me to grade 1/2 the papers one week and 1/2 the papers the next.

Finally, I've employed the extra credit for early submission strategies when I've taught fewer students and/or courses. All papers are due on X date, but if you turn them in one week early, you earn 1/2 % extra credit toward your final grade in the course. Usually, only 1/3 of the students actually turn them in by the early submit date, but that still forces me to pace my grading into 1/3 one week and 2/3 the next. A variation on this idea is 4 paper options due in the semester, but students will only be graded on 3, with extra credit for turning in the first assignment instead of the last 3.

Do different tracks or staggered due dates or two possible submission dates sound like a lot of work? It is. And it does take careful course planning (but we're all doing that anyway) and a bit extra research up front to develop different tracked assignments, for example. But, it's a one time cost for a multi-semester payoff. And what's more fun about the administrative aspects of teaching than developing assignments?

440 papers in one semester is a lot of work no matter how you cut it (that's the most I've ever had). But for those of us who aren't quite as disciplined as Professor Liemer, forced dieting has worked for me.

Now, if only we could find a grading diet that burned a calorie for every word we read on students' papers or wrote as part of feedback!



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