Friday, April 3, 2009

Advice about grading exam essays while keeping your sanity intact

This is an interesting article from Inside Higher Ed containing some helpful tips for grading undergraduate exams that apply equally to law school grading.  While some of the advice is self-evident, I really like the author's emphasis on the need for teachers to develop strategies that keep us sane.  So much attention is typically focused on meeting the needs of our students that we, like our students, often forget that teachers have needs too. 

To be most effective and avoid burn-out, we have to make grading a manageable undertaking. The first step is to get real:

Let’s put aside romantic notions that each of us is Mr. Chips, that every essay is a joy to read, and that our only life goal is to toil selflessly so that all students maximize their potential. You could take that approach — for the year or two before you broke down like a knock-off Rolex. It would be better for both you and your students to develop a system to grade essays quickly, efficiently, and effectively. 

With that in mind, you need to strike an appropriate balance between providing guidance to the students without becoming an enabler by doing all the work yourself.  Instead, make them do it.  That means you need to become a grading "minimalist:" 

Develop a grading checklist and either post it to your course Web site or physically hand a copy to each student. Tell them that it is their responsibility to read it and to raise any questions they have regarding it. If you hand hold like Mr. Chips you actually do students a disservice. Maybe a few students don’t know what the word “syntax” means or can’t tell MLA from APA; it’s time they learn.

Finally, keep these things in mind:  Don't write too much, try to include positive comments and "immediate feedback is better than extensive feedback."

You can read the entire article here.

I am the scholarship dude.


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