Last week Tuesday October 14th WAC writing fellows Louis Lipani and Bisola Neil led a faculty workshop on effective grading and minimal marking. We had high attendance and instructors shared their many experiences with grading assignments. Our workshop focused on two main goals of effective grading, which are 1) improving student writing and 2) developing efficient grading strategies.
In order to improve student writing, we need to identify and prioritize which higher-order and lower-order concerns are most important, and provide strategic forward-looking feedback.
Some higher-order concerns can include:
• Thesis statement
• Quality of argument/ideas
• Evidence used correctly
• Logic of conclusions
• Use of topic sentences
• Organization of paper
• Demonstration of understanding of class material
Lower-order concerns may include:
• Grammar (agreement)
• Formatting (font, spacing)
• Sentence structure
• Vocabulary/word choice
To develop more efficient grading strategies, keep in mind that efficient feedback is minimal, strategic and organized. Providing too many comments on lower-order concerns may communicate to students that these aspects are the most important, and they may then pay less attention to the one or two important comments on higher-order concerns. By prioritizing comments, first highlighting higher-order issues and then identifying one or two patterns of error for lower-order concerns, students will have a clearer idea of what needs to be improved for their next draft. Lastly, organizing grading procedures with a rubric or grading key can save time for the instructor and help clear up confusion for students.
When grading low-stakes (or semi-formal) assignments, you may want to consider:
• Putting your pen down while you read
• Having a conversation
• Asking the student question
While for high-stakes (graded and larger in nature) assignments you may want to:
• Do a few line edits (not the whole paper)
• Provide end comments
• Develop a grading key
Lastly, be mindful that students receive most feedback from instructors as criticism. Students may find it easier to accept feedback when instructors provide positive comments, engage students with questions and frame constructive criticism in a forward-looking way.