Grading Matters

Making the Grade

As you brace yourself to tackle mountains of papers, projects, or exams, here are a few suggestions to make grading a little easier:

A good rubric can save you time and frustration. When we’re evaluating student work, it’s easy to get distracted by the surface features (formatting, sentence structure…the list goes on). You’ll use your time more strategically—and cultivate more learning—if you begin by reminding yourself why you gave the assignment. A rubric will help you confine your attention (and time) to the explicit goals of the assignment, so you can focus on how much your students have learned.

Rubrics can also help us stay consistent. As John Tierney concedes, “An essay that earns a B+ at one moment might earn a B- the next day. It shouldn’t be that way, but any honest teacher will admit it’s true.” Students appreciate the concreteness of a rubric, and stapling a marked rubric to a graded paper (or highlighting the boxes online) has a tendency to inhibit grade appeals.

Since students can no longer revise, and many will never see your remarks, now is not the time to expend time and energy crafting the sort of careful facilitative feedback that guides learning. Students need that early in the semester, when it has the most impact—now, at the end, what they need is transparency in our evaluation of their performance. But when you are responding to essays or projects, Kevin Gannon advises saving time by using a voice tool like Voisi, or the speech-to-text function on a Google doc, instead of scribbling. A comment bank is also a useful tool.

If you’re finding yourself tempted to grade on a curve, or besieged by last-minute requests for extra credit, it’s important to calibrate your response so that final grades reflect, as far as possible, how much students have learned. If students have mastered the material, but earned very poor grades, you may need to adjust your grading scale. Conversely, if high grades don’t seem to align with the level of mastery you’d like to see, you’ll also probably want to redesign your grading structure in the future.

If you’d like to talk about specifications grading, or other course design strategies that make grading easier and motivate students, we’re always here to help.

Congratulations on making it through a tough semester!

Spring 2018 Faculty Reading Groups

If you sign up now, we can get you your complimentary copy before the break.

Please check your calendar to ensure that you can attend all three meetings. Space is limited. To RSVP, email

Thursdays 2:00-4:00
1/18, 1/25, 2/1

Whistling Vivaldi
Tuesdays 2:00-4:00
1/30, 2/6, 2/13

What The Best College Teachers Do
Thursdays 10:00-12:00
2/15, 2/22, 3/1

Cheating Lessons
Wednesdays 10:00-12:00
2/21, 2/28, 3/7

Learner-Centered Teaching
Tuesdays, 3:00-5:00
3/20, 3/27, 4/3