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Common Sense Methods to Save Time Grading

Tuesday, January 10, 2017 -- Scott Sterling

When asked, teachers often cite grading as one of the most frustrating activities of their job. Although technology advancements have helped, students still benefit from written feedback and teachers find that there are some artifacts that can’t be assessed by a computer or evaluated via peer grading. The good news? With a few simple tweaks to your method, you can make the process a lot quicker and easier for yourself. Check out these five tips to help you say goodbye to that hefty pile of papers that seems to follow you home at the end of every day.

1. Shift your perspective 

Many teachers who get stressed out about grading are simply putting too much importance on it. Yes, students need and deserve meaningful feedback, but are in-depth comments really necessary to go along with every little piece of work? Start rethinking what needs thorough grading and what can be graded for completion. There’s no right answer or rule of thumb, but if you’re pulling your hair out just thinking about your grading stack, your ratio is probably off.

2. Assess strategically

Not every assignment needs a holistic review. Think of your students’ artifacts as components of a whole, building up to a masterful product. In that way, each assignment that comes across your desk only needs to be closely assessed for a few components that you may have put heavier emphasis on during instruction. For example, for the first writing assignment of the term, your main concern should be that students use the right format. Elements of style can come later.

3. Set a threshold

Unfortunately, you will always see assignments where it is obvious that the student simply hasn’t demonstrated what you’re looking for. When that fact becomes apparent, it’s okay to halt your review and ask the student to rework it. Offer him or her a couple of points for improvement and move on. Institute a classroom policy for this sort of practice, so you’re not spending the same amount of time explaining the process as you would have to simply grade the piece of work from the beginning.

4. Consider holistic meetings 

Accumulating portfolios is becoming a standard method of assessment. They provide a great overview of student progress for everyone involved, and can be a time-saving tool for you. Instead of grading all minor assignments as they come in, only give students as much feedback as they need to continue making progress. Then, at the end of the term or unit, meet individually with each student to discuss their body of work as a whole and deliver grades at that time. Not only is this method more efficient, but it also gives your students an opportunity to receive richer, more meaningful feedback on their growth over time.

5. Incorporate more group assignments 

Communication and collaboration are key to academic and real-world success for 21st century students. Help your students build these skills and cut down on the number of assignments hitting your grading pile by incorporating more group work into your curriculum. Of course, the typical rules must still apply (and be taken into account for grading): make sure everyone contributes and that there are enough opportunities for the group to rescue a possible rocky start. Develop a rubric for the assignment or project to give your students complete transparency regarding expectations, and then use it as your guide to ensure grading is thorough and consistent, without the need for excessive commentary.

Looking for more tips to manage your workload outside of the classroom and get minutes back in your day? Check out this blog for 5 Lesson-Planning Tips to Help You Reclaim Your Weekend