Acquired Taste

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Grading papers fast and fairly : Tips for teachers

Posted by unbeelievable on February 21, 2008

After my rant the other day on grading papers, I thought I’d actually give some helpful advice on how to grade papers.

Grade in a pleasant place, free from distraction. I like to take the morning off and grade sitting on my couch sipping coffee or alone at a laid-back cafe. I do not like to grade in my office, on Saturdays at home, in meetings, or anywhere else. Why? Because even one, tiny distraction will force me to re-read at least part of the paper, which will make it take longer and be more frustrating. Additionally, if you make grading a semi-pleasant thing to do, it won’t be quite as painful.

Read 5-10 papers before making any marks at all. Place these in order from best to worst, and figure out your grading scheme from there. If you are going to make a rubric (recommended), now is the time to do it (if you haven’t already…but if you have made one, you might want to revise it at this point).

Set a time limit for each paper. So let’s imagine you have a stack of 100 papers, each 3-4 pages long, roughly on the same topic. You want to get them back in the next three days. Now, to really grade each paper carefully, you’re going to need 15 minutes or so. But 15*100 = 25 HOURS of grading. Ick, no thanks. You probably have other stuff to do. So what about 5 minutes per paper? Well that’s still 8 + hours of grading, but it’s certainly more managable. Set a timer for each paper, or just look at the clock. I recommend using your time limit as an average, as some papers take longer than others.

Don’t have a grading marathon. If you grade, and grade, and grade, one of two things will happen: (1) your eyes will glaze over and you’ll stop thinking about what you’re doing, or (2) you will get really, really unhappy and will start grading unfairly. In the above example, perhaps grade 20 papers at a time, then move on to something else.

Put potentially plagarized papers in a pile, and check them all at once. Typically, plagarized papers are pretty obvious, especially if scientific articles are used as the sources. Checking for plagarism can take time, though, so if you suspect one, put it in a pile to be graded later. When you get to them, your first line of defense is google or google scholar. Take the most odd phrase you can find and put it in quotes. If you assigned a particular paper or book, you can look through it to see if you detect plagarism. You won’t catch everyone, though.

Don’t correct grammar/spelling on each page. Trying to fix a paper, or highlight the errors on each page, can take forever. Circle the offending words without comment. If a paper is *really* bad, take one paragraph and fix it. Then write in the margin that the rest of the paper should look something like that, and suggest the person work on his/her writing style.

In a hurry? Remember, A’s don’t complain. If you’re really out of time, remember that you can make fewer comments on “A” papers. A couple of ‘good point!’s’ and ‘interesting thought’s’ can be all you need.

Good luck!!


3 Responses to “Grading papers fast and fairly : Tips for teachers”

  1. Tori & Kyle Sharpe said

    LOVED this! I’m always looking for a way to make my life a little easier when grading high school kids’ crazy papers. Thanks for this!

  2. Louis said

    Great info. My wife knows the “A” trick but don’t tell anyone.

    Another option I would like to share is grading papers using a website called Grading Place, You scan and submit your papers to the site and within 2 days you will receive your grades. I’m the creator so if you have any questions, feel free to ask.

  3. Lewis Gravenell said

    I’m a gcse student having to help mark the papers for a roleplaying exercise (i didn’t want to take part so i’m acting as teacher) do the same rules above apply to me.

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