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It's Grade O'clock Somewhere

Updated: Nov 9, 2020

stacks of papers

And that somewhere is here. 

Okay, so I'd like to first by saying that I know we all love grading. Some of us love it in theory. Some of us love it in theory and practice. But we all do love it. We love it when we see a struggling student make it over a hurdle that felt impossible at the beginning of the semester. We love it when a student gives us a unique analysis that we had honestly never considered before. We love it when a student applies course terms, supports arguments with evidence, offers a unique hypothesis, and solves for x. We absolutely love it. 

Grading is also a consumer. It consumes our time, attention, and energy. It consumes our cognitive capacity. It consumes efficiencies and effectiveness. When we're grading, it makes us feel like we're not doing it fast enough or effective enough. When we're not grading, it makes us feel like we should be.

I've read dozens of articles about grading: how to be effective when grading, how to be more efficient when grading, how it is impossible to effective and efficient, and how efficiency shouldn't be the aim of grading. (This last line of argument, in particular, has always irked me since I don't see--and I don't believe students see--my role in the classroom as grading machine.)

I do believe that we should aim for both effectiveness and efficiency when grading. I believe that efficiency can actually create a more effective grading process. And I believe that what some may view as "shortcuts" when grading actually creates a more consistent result for us and for our students.

Here are some of the ways that I and others have found to be more efficient and effective in our grading: 

  1. Prompts matter. Prompts that have clear instructions help students to execute your expectations. It also helps you to be clear about your grading criteria and streamline what you're actually looking for as you grade.

  2. Rubrics matter. Like prompts, a clear rubric can help students create an assignment that aligns with your expectations. For us, rubrics help us to quickly provide general comments, leaving time for student-specific feedback.

  3. Comment bank. Grading digitally means that you can create a bank of comments that you are likely to use and reuse as you grade. Comment banks also help to ensure feedback consistency since students are receiving the same/similar comments. 

  4. Technology support. Using video and audio feedback helps us give students personal, individual feedback and helps to reduce our typing/writing time. Check out what is available in your learning management system for video/audio feedback. You can also use video-capture software like Screencast-o-Matic or Zoom. For audio feedback, check out 

I have used all of these techniques, and they all have helped me to create a more effective and efficient grading process. They have also contributed to a more consistent grading process for my students and more personalized feedback. I should also add that my grading process has become almost entirely digital since I primarily teach online. I find that digital grading has greatly increased my grading efficiency and effectiveness simply because I'm leveraging the digital tools at my disposal. 

There are dozens of other grading techniques out there. Here are some others to try: 

Please share your tips to make grading more efficient and effective!


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