Monday, August 24, 2009

Getting out of Grading - Seriously?


Earlier this month I was reading an article on Inside Higher Ed about about a Duke administrator that went back into teaching, how she found Grading so tiresome that she decided to outsource it...to her students! Yes indeed, students in her class also graded each others papers.

This professor writes:

I can't think of a more meaningless, superficial, cynical way to evaluate learning than by assigning a grade. It turns learning (which should be a deep pleasure, setting up for a lifetime of curiosity) into a crass competition: how do I snag the highest grade for the least amount of work? how do I give the prof what she wants so I can get the A that I need for med school? That's the opposite of learning and curiosity, the opposite of everything I believe as a teacher, and is, quite frankly, a waste of my time and the students' time. There has to be a better way....


I honestly fail to see what's superficial about grading. It's not a beauty contest among the students. Each class has certain educational outcomes. As an instructor for the course you are in charge of saying whether those students have realize those educational outcomes, and if they have to what degree those outcomes have been realized. This isn't some voodoo that you perform to get a student's grade, it's based on a rubric that you make based on your intended educational outcomes!

Now there are pedagogical reasons for letting fellow classmates grade other people's papers, but that grading can't (1) be the sole grading criterion and (2) it can't be self-guided, it's gotta be based on a rubric! If you don't do this all students can sign a pact to give each other a good grade.

I've had classes where I've graded classmates on a given rubric, but that wasn't their final grade. The final grade for that particular project was 75%-80% what the teacher thought and 20%-25% what your peer evaluation said.

All things considered this professor comes off as lazy to me.
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