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As we near fall break, you may find that your grading is piling up quickly, and if you’re like me, you’re probably wondering how to keep it from taking over your life. What follows are some concrete strategies to make grading more efficient, without sacrificing the quality of feedback you give on student work.

Add grading to your calendar. For major assignments, set aside blocks of time for grading in your daily schedule. Try to work for an hour or two at a time to avoid burnout and to keep your grading consistent. 

Set a timer. Time can really get away from you while you’re grading. Setting a timer for each paper, lab report, or project (and sticking to the time you’ve set!) can help ensure you give concise feedback on the most important points and finish grading in a timely manner.

Use a rubric. Rubrics with clearly defined expectations not only help students craft better assignments but also help instructors focus their evaluation. Consider designing rubrics that you can mark up and return to students with their grades. In addition to minimizing the amount of time you spend writing out comments, this method can also promote more consistent grading, saving time in the long run. 

Use a comment bank. If you find students are consistently making the same kind or error or struggling in similar ways, craft a general comment that addresses your concerns and can be slightly modified for different students and situations. Save this comment, and others, in a document that you can draw on when grading future assignments. 

Focus feedback by considering assignment goals. Remember that addressing every concern in every student assignment is impossible. Limit the kind of feedback you give to the concerns the assignment is designed to address and the topics you’ve covered in previous classes. 

Offer verbal rather than written feedback. Sometimes speaking to students about their work can be quicker and easier than writing out your comments. Consider meeting individually with students to offer feedback or even recording verbal comments to distribute digitally.

And remember: past a certain point, the amount of time you spend crafting feedback for students has diminishing returns. Students can feel overwhelmed or discouraged by too many comments, so devoting an inordinate amount of time to grading is not only exhausting but also, in many cases, counterproductive. Developing a toolbox for targeted and efficient grading can improve the experience of the course both for you and your students.  

 

Additional Resources
Natascha Chtena, “Grading Faster and Smarter,” Inside Higher Ed
Kevin Gannon, “How to Escape Grading Jail,” The Chronicle of Higher Education
Victoria Smith and Stephanie Maher Palenque, “Ten Tips for More Efficient and Effective Grading,” Faculty Focus
Tips on Grading Efficiently,” Graduate Student Instructor Teaching & Resource Center, Berkeley Graduate Division

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