Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Time Saving Tips for Grading Assignments Part 2

Last week’s blog was about strategies I already use in the classroom to save time grading homework, quizzes, and in-class assignments. See it here. The following are strategies I’m going to implement this quarter. I’ll let you know how they work!

Have students turn in multiple assignments at once:  A friend of mine has students keep all their in-class assignments in a folder and turn them in at mid-term and at the end of the quarter. He claims his grading time is cut by a third, simply by streamlining the process (No collecting/returning papers, keeping track of late work, shuffling papers around at home…). I will be using this method just for the 30-minute response papers we do in-class. My concern with this method is that recognizing a students who are struggling or need to improve their work might be too late in coming, or a student might not have an opportunity to improve after realizing a problem. I will be spot checking some assignments just to be sure. 

Ditch the rubrics:  Look at any article with advice for grading efficiency, and it will invariably say, “Use a rubric!” At the beginning of my teaching career, I worked for a university that required rubrics for every assignment, so I got used to using them, and would have certainly parroted this advice. Although I still believe that a rubric is necessary for grading essays and large group projects, I’ve learned the value diminishes with other types of assignments, so I’m getting rid of most of them. The time saved is in less detailed notes, creating new rubrics, adding up points, less copy making, stapling, etc… Sometimes it OK to just slap a grade at the top of an assignment!

Representative grading:  I’ve read about teachers implementing forms of representative grading, but I dismissed it, thinking it wasn’t necessarily a fair way of grading. Over the years, though, I’ve noticed that students are fairly consistent in the quality of their work. I won’t do this at the beginning of the quarter, and I will only do it with selected assignments (not writing assignments), but it works like this: The teacher time stamps homework to show it was completed on time, but the student keeps the work. Students collect all their work for a given time period (say every two weeks) and staple it together. Then the teacher asks students to circle or highlight designated questions that are a representative sample. This is different than the selective grading that I’ve been doing because it involves grading far less on each assignment, and even skipping whole assignments.

Assigning work that multi-tasks: Last quarter, I assigned a 30-minute response paper in class and asked the students to hang on to it rather than turn it in. The next class period, we were working on a writing introductions, and instead of the assignment I had planned, I asked the students to get out the response paper and work on a new introduction based on what we had learned in class that day. Over the next few class periods, we did the same thing with other concepts, using the same response paper. When it was time for grading, instead of multiple assignments and papers from each student, everything was in once place. As a bonus, I could see their editing process. I plan to do these types of assignments more frequently and thoughtfully this quarter.


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