Jenkins, who teaches several writing-intensive courses every semester, notes that it is easy to take on the pose of a martyr when faced with stacks and stacks of multiple-paged papers, especially when the process is repeated a few times for each class. He offers eight guidelines for keeping grading in balance with the aspects of teaching that are more enjoyable. Jenkins proposes that you:
There are two general approaches to assigning grades: criterion-referenced grading and norm-referenced grading. In criterion-referenced grading, students' grades are based on an absolute scale established by the instructor before the exam is graded. If all the students in a class achieve 80 percent or higher on an exam, they will all receive A's or B's. Conversely, if none of the students in a class scores better than 80 percent, then no one in the class receives a grade higher than B-for that test. Criterion-referenced grading meets three important standards: any number of students can earn A's and B's; the focus is on learning and mastery of material; final grades reflect what students know, compared to the teacher's standards. There are various ways to identify the criterion (standard) for each letter grade. Ory and Ryan (1993) describe a strategy that involves determining the number of items on a test that students need to answer correctly to achieve a C (typically those items written at the basic knowledge or comprehension levels), adding to that minimum the number of additional items for a B (questions written at higher levels) and for an A, and then working back to D and F. Criterion-referenced grading requires skill and experience in writing exams and establishing the grading scale. New teachers are advised to consult with experienced colleagues before using this approach.
The evaluation score for the criterion can use any schema as long as it is clear how it equates to a total grade. Keep in mind that the scores for objectives can be weighted differently so that you can emphasize the skills and qualities that have the most significance to the learning objectives.
Whether used in a large survey course or a small upper-level seminar, rubrics benefit both students and instructors. The most obvious benefit is the production of a structured, consistent guideline for assigning grades. With clearly established criteria, there is less concern about subjective evaluation. Once created, a rubric can be used every time to normalize grading across sections or semesters. When the rubric for an assignment is shared with teaching assistants, it provides guidance on how to translate the instructor’s expectations for evaluating student submissions consistently. The rubric makes it easier for teaching assistants to give constructive feedback to students. In addition, the instructor can supply pre-constructed comments for uniformity in grading.
Rubrics can be established for a variety of assignments such as essays, papers, lab observations, science posters, presentations, etc. Regardless of the discipline, every assignment contains elements that address an important skill or quality. The rubric helps bring focus to those elements and serves as a guide for consistent grading that can be used from year to year.
The process for interactive grading was a little different. I kept the papers for a week before starting interactive grading, so that I could check them for plagiarism. I use a variety of techniques for this (if you are curious, see the video course on plagiarism-detection at ). I do not do interactive grading sessions with plagiarists. The meeting with them is a disciplinary meeting and the grade is zero.
These are 4th year undergraduates or graduate students. A large percentage of these students lack basic library skills. They do not know how to do focused searches in electronic databases for scholarly information and they do not know how to assess its credibility or deal with conflicting results and conflicting conclusions. Many of them lack basic skills in citing references. Few are skilled at structuring a paper longer than 2 or 3 pages. I am describing good students at a well-respected American university that is plenty hard to get into. We have forced them to take compulsory courses in writing, but those courses only went so far and the students only paid so much attention. My understanding, having talked at length with faculty at other schools, is that this is typical of American computer science students.
The Professor Hacker post offers additional links and resources for paperless grading and more generally for those looking to move to a paperless course environment. Be sure to read the comments for additional solutions.
Last year we wrote about the , a tool offered within , the plagiarism detection software product used at JHU. The application is fully integrated with Blackboard, our learning management system. For assignments and assessments where you don’t wish to use Turnitin, Blackboard offers another grading option for online submissions. Recent updates to Blackboard’s include new features built into the assignment tool that allow instructors to easily make inline comments, highlight or strikeout text, and use drawing tools for freeform edits. All this without having to handle a single piece of paper.
The criterion descriptions can list the skills or qualities as separate bullets to make it easier for a grader to see what makes up an evaluation score. Below is an example of a holistic rubric for a simple writing assignment.
Instructors have many tasks to perform during the semester. Among those is grading, which can be subjective and unstructured. Time spent constructing grading rubrics while developing assignments benefits all parties involved with the course: students, teaching assistants and instructors alike. Sometimes referred to as a grading schema or matrix, a rubric is a tool for assessing student knowledge and providing constructive feedback. Rubrics are comprised of a list of skills or qualities students must demonstrate in completing an assignment, each with a rating criterion for evaluating the student’s performance. Rubrics bring clarity and consistency to the grading process and make grading more efficient.
The main idea behind feedback codes is to determine common student errors and assign each of those errors a code. When grading papers, you (or the grader) needs only to write down the letter of the feedback code, and the student can refer to the list of what these codes mean in order to get fairly rich feedback about what they did wrong.