On grading strategies.

How do you deal with grading to make it less painful?

Talking to a friend who had to grade a lot of exams recently I mentioned a post I had written on how to make grading less painful, only to realize later that I wrote that post, but never actually posted it! So here we go now:

Last semester student numbers in the course I taught went back to less than 1/3rd of the previous year’s numbers. And yet – grading was a huge pain. So I’ve been thinking about strategies that make grading bearable.

The main thing that helps me is to make very explicit rubrics when I design the exam, long before I start grading. I think about what is the minimum requirement for each answer, and what is the level that I would expect for a B. How important are the different answers relative to each other (and hence how many points should they contribute to the final score).

But then when it comes to grading, this is what I do.

I lock myself in to avoid colleagues coming to talk to me and distract me (if at all possible – this year it was not).

I disconnect from the internet to avoid distraction.

I make sure I have enough water to drink very close by.

I go through all the same questions in all the exams before moving on to the next question and looking at that one on all the exams. This helps to make sure grading stays consistent between students.

I also look at a couple of exams before I write down the first grades, it usually takes an adjustment period.

I remind myself of how far the students have come during the course. Sometimes I look back at very early assignments if I need a reminder of where they started from.

I move around. Seriously, grading standing (or at least getting up repeatedly and walking and stretching) really helps.

I look back at early papers I wrote as a student. That really helps putting things into perspective.

I keep mental lists of the most ridiculous answers for my own entertainment (but would obviously not share them, no matter how tempting that might be).

And most importantly: I just do it. Procrastination is really not your friend when it comes to grading…

What do you think? And ideas? Comments? Suggestions? Please share!