Feed on

Now that spring sunshine has arrived, some instructors’ thoughts have turned more darkly to the stack of final grading they will soon face.  Here are a few quick tips to make the most of these final moments of the semester:


Use Rubrics

Studies tout the benefits of rubrics in grading reliably, increasing transparency, and promoting learning.  Not all rubrics are created equally though.  Rubrics should be analytic rather than holistic, that is, they should assign scores to each separate dimension of the assignment.  Augmenting your scale with + or – signs can improve the accuracy of scoring. Topic-specific rubrics also provide more dependable scores. Multiple sets of “anchors” or examples in a rubric to help students better identify qualities in their own work and show that there are multiple ways to approach the assignment.  Finally, if multiple instructors or TAs are grading, take time to ground mutual expectations for more consistent scoring.


Be aware of bias

Variability in grading can be as great in the same instructor as between multiple graders.  The order in which papers are reviewed has been shown to influence scores, so be sure to take frequent breaks while grading to help yourself grade more fairly.  Previous student performance can influence subsequent grades, a bias known as the halo effect.  Other studies have demonstrated that the grading can be influenced by a variety of factors including student penmanship, gender, ethnicity, and even attractiveness.  Implement blind grading for exams and assignments for which you have not given students in-progress feedback.


Facilitate student self-assessment

Grading should be a two-way street that helps students understand the standards of the course, compare their current performance to good performance, and close that gap.  While establishing a dialogue around performance and expectations should be a semester-long process, you can implement the following strategy even at the end of the term:

When students arrive in class ready to turn in a final assignment or project, take five minutes for self-reflection.  Choose four or five key features of the assignment for each student to mark in their work, such as their best use of evidence, thesis statement, creative use of a source, or strong writing.  Not only will your grading be made easier with these cues, but the activity offers students an opportunity to assess their own performance and compare their expectations with external standards.


Sources and Further Reading:

Anders Jonsson and Gunilla Svingby, “The Use of Scoring Rubrics: Reliability, Validity and Educational Consequences,” Educational Research Review 2, 2007, pp. 130-144.

John M. Malouff, Ashley J. Emmerton, and Nicola S. Schutte, “The Risk of a Halo Bias as a Reason to Keep Students Anonymous during Grading,” Teaching of Psychology, 30 (3), 2013, pp. 233-237.

David J. Nicol and Debra Macfarlane-Dick, “Formative Assessment and Self-Regulated Learning: A Model and Seven Principles of Good Feedback Practice,” Studies in Higher Education, 31 (2), April 2006, pp. 199-218.

Jeffrey Schinske and Kimberly Tanner, “Teaching More by Grading Less (or Differently),” CBE—Life Sciences Education, 13, pp. 159-166.

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