24 October 2011

On grading.

I am wading through student assignments, trying to finalize grades for a half-semester course I've been teaching. It's not my favorite thing in the world, but it's necessary, since apparently students expect grades back for the work they've submitted and the university demands it.

Who knew?

I have moved over the years toward rubrics, in part to keep my sanity, but also in part because they give students a fairly clear overview of the areas of emphasis for the paper. No rubric, I've decided, is perfect, but a good rubric can speed the grading process while allowing for reliable grades. Trust me, looking at thirty papers on the same topic without a rubric can be a deadly experience.

I think many teachers dread grading because the nature of one assignment given to the entire class lends itself to repetitive papers, many of which are close to unreadable. I offer as a perverse proof of this thesis the fact that when you do happen upon a well-constructed paper that has a clear argument and uses direct specific support that actually relates to the argument, you are so overjoyed that you want to tell your colleagues and close family members about it.

Not too many teachers get into the profession because they love grading or love the idea of being able to assess individuals and control their futures via the power of the letter grade. I know I initially got into the profession through a love of my subject and a desire to talk about it with other people, both colleagues and students.

Grading is the price we pay to get to do stand in front of a class and ask them what they thought e.e. cummings was up to when he wrote "next to of course god america i."

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