Grading “Jail”

ProfHacker has had an ongoing series on grading “jail” this semester. Grading jail, for the unfamiliar, is when you either are or feel you are grading all the time. It can also be when you voluntarily block off a couple of days, hours, etc. to grade papers; in that time all you do is grade. At the best of times, there’s a lot of anxiety attached to the process of grading. It’s most teachers’ least favorite part of their job. Essay grading is inherently subjective, and there’s no perfect rubric to make it less so.  And students frequently only see the number at the bottom of the grade sheet, in large part because our culture emphasizes that number so much and not the process by which a student crafted their work. It’s difficult to explain to students why I want to see their whole process (drafting, etc.) when they’ve been told repeatedly that the end result is all that matters.  At any rate, go read the insightful discussion while I grade comp essays. I’ve decided it isn’t grading jail; it’s a way to learn things I didn’t know before. Most of my students have vastly different experiences than I do. Each essay I read teaches me a little something I didn’t know.

Oh, and if the ProfHacker series doesn’t keep you occupied, here’s the Approval Matrix, Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me‘s Sandwich Monday post on a $777 burger, Jim Schutze gleefully detailing more of the political underhandedness better known as the Trinity River Project, or this great mental health break from Andrew Sullivan:

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One thought on “Grading “Jail”

  1. “students frequently only see the number at the bottom of the grade sheet, in large part because our culture emphasizes that number so much and not the process by which a student crafted their work. It’s difficult to explain to students why I want to see their whole process (drafting, etc.) when they’ve been told repeatedly that the end result is all that matters.”

    If I can find a copy of it on this computer, I’ll send you the paper I wrote back in grad school about how to get around this problem and promote deeper learning in the students. It’s not a revolutionary idea, but the approach I espoused has worked extremely well for me over the years. if I can’t find the paper, I’ll just e-mail you the gist.

    The short version (for your other readers) is relatively simple: Just take the grade off the paper. That way, the only thing to students have to look at–on the bottom of the paper or anywhere else–is the block of comments you’ve made about their work. If they are so desperate to see that number (or letter) and come to ask you for their grade, they’ve just created an opportunity to discuss the paper. (In fact, I never reveal the grade until the student has discussed the comments with me.) All this forces them to retrain their brains and start looking at the process BEFORE (if not more than) the product.

    Really, that’s about it. The rest of the paper is mostly the research I did in support of that approach, and all that research is a bit out of date these days. Still, you might find it interesting. 🙂

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