Tips on Teaching

Effective Grading Techniques

by Konnor Brennan, Graduate Assistant, Reinert Center

Grading student work is an essential part of the instructional process. Instructors are well aware of and value the benefits of providing graded work to students in a timely manner. Graded work can provide our students with feedback that is essential to the learning process. Students often use their grades as sources of motivation, and instructors can utilize this motivation to further the learning the happens in their courses. Finally, grading student work allows instructors to evaluate whether their students are meeting the standards of our course. Knowing how important grading student work is to the learning process, it is important that instructors strive to maintain consistency and efficiency when grading. The following are some practices from the literature that can help instructors increase efficiency when grading, while maintaining consistency.

Providing the learning objectives or goals of the assessment to the students can reduce variability and extraneous information the students provide. The instructor’s ability to efficiently grade student work can be hindered by the vast differences that appear between student submissions. While this is not a problem for some assessment types (multiple choice tests for example), other assessment formats allow for a high degree of variability. In addition to this issue, some students feel the need to provide all of their knowledge of a concept in order to ensure their success on the assessment. By providing the learning objectives or goals of the assessment the students can target their answers to meet the instructor’s criteria, in turn reducing the time the instructor spends sifting through unrelated information.

Another way to increase efficiency while grading is to thoughtfully consider the format and purpose of the feedback being provided to the students. Detailed feedback is an important part of the learning process, however, if there is no opportunity to apply the feedback, students tend to overlook it. Focusing feedback on formative assessments (those that happen during the learning process) rather than summative assessments (evaluations at end of the learning process) can save the instructor time by front loading the grading time and minimize feedback that goes unutilized.

Ensuring grades are consistent between students is a difficult, yet important, part of grading student work. Some simple strategies to promote consistency of grades include making the names of students anonymous and taking frequent breaks while grading. Instructors can also consider providing rubrics to the students, either during completion of the assessment and/or after grading the assessment. In doing so, the instructor can provide clear criteria as to how the assessment was graded and the instructor can make every effort to grade their students consistently.

Efficiency and consistency of grading are two small aspects of the greater picture of grading. To anyone interested in furthering these ideas or has a question about a specific assessment used in their course, the Reinert Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning offers confidential consolations to any instructor affiliated with Saint Louis University.