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Finding the Time to Teach Part 5 – Grade More Efficiently

Posted by on Friday, April 8, 2011 in News.

Finding the Time to Teach Part 5 – Grade More Efficiently is the fifth of a series of posts written by CFT Graduate Teaching Fellow, Lily Claiborne. These blog posts are intended to share ideas for prioritizing, planning, working efficiently, and avoiding procrastination – resulting in a more balanced, successful life in academia.

In my GradSTEP workshop on Finding the Time to Teach, we focused on the four main steps in managing your time well as an overcommitted graduate student and TA in order to be a successful teacher:

  1. Prioritize
  2. Plan
  3. Work Efficiently (PreparationIn Class, Grading)
  4. Avoid Procrastination

This blog is the fifth of several focusing on how to achieve these four items, resulting in a more balanced, successful life in academia.  The following strategies will help you better manage your time and get more done.

Grading can easily become a daunting task that dominates the time you have set aside for teaching-related activities and prevents you from trying new things, researching teaching methods, or spending time with students.  Making grading more efficient can open up your schedule for those other activities that are so often neglected!

Below are a few tips from the Vanderbilt Center for Teaching’s Guide on Grading Student Work that will help you save time with this time-consuming task:

  • Create assignments that have clear goals and criteria for assessment.  The better students understand what you’re asking them to do the more likely they’ll do it! (see discussion below on using Rubrics)
  • Use different grading scales for different assignments.  Grading scales include:
    • letter grades with pluses and minuses (for papers, essays, essay exams, etc.)
    • 100-point numerical scale (for exams, certain types of projects, etc.)
    • check +, check, check- (for quizzes, homework, response papers, quick reports or presentations, etc.)
    • pass-fail or credit-no-credit (for preparatory work)
    • Limit your comments or notations to those your students can use for further learning or improvement.
    • Spend more time on guiding students in the process of doing work than on grading it.
    • For each significant assignment, establish a grading schedule and stick to it.

Grading with Rubrics

Rubrics cost some time on the front-end of the assignment, but will pay off in time and effort in the long run.  Start with your learning goals and use these to create the components of the assignment that you will be grading.  Then, think about what an excellent version of each component would look like, and list those descriptions. Then work downwards, describing what “B” work, “C” work, etc. would look like.  Give your rubric to the students when the assignment is made to guide them in their work and to be clear about your expectations.  Then when it’s time to grade, use the rubric and fly through that stack of papers!  You can look at example rubrics from a variety of disciplines here.


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