Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Teaching More by Marking Less

"A review of the history and research on grading practices may appear to present a bleak outlook on the process of grading and its impacts on learning. However, underlying the less encouraging news about grades are numerous opportunities for faculty members to make assessment and evaluation more productive, better aligned with student learning, and less burdensome for faculty and students. Notably, many of the practices advocated in the literature would appear to involve faculty members spending less time grading. The time and energy spent on grading has been often pinpointed as a key barrier to instructors becoming more innovative in their teaching. In some cases, the demands of grading require so much instructor attention, little time remains for reflection on the structure of a course or for aspirations of pedagogical improvement. Additionally, some instructors are hesitant to develop active-learning activities - as either in-class activities or homework assignments - for fear of the onslaught of grading resulting from these new activities. However, just because students generate work does not mean instructors need to grade that work for accuracy. In fact, we have presented evidence that accuracy-based grading may, in fact, demotivate students and impede learning. Additionally, the time-consuming process of instructors marking papers and leaving comments may achieve no gain, if comments are rarely read by students. One wonders how much more student learning might occur if instructors’ time spent grading was used in different ways. What if instructors spent more time planning in-class discussions of homework and simply assigned a small number of earned points to students for completing the work? What if students themselves used rubrics to examine their peers’ efforts and evaluate their own work, instead of instructors spending hours and hours commenting on papers? What if students viewed their peers as resources and collaborators, as opposed to competitors in courses that employ grade curving? Implementing small changes like those described above might allow instructors to promote more student learning by grading less or at least differently than they have before."

Teaching More by Grading Less (or Differently). (2014) CBE Life Sci Education 13(2): 159-166 doi: 10.1187/cbe.CBE-14-03-0054

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