The Finish Line

One of the great things about life in academia is the ebb and flow of the year. It has a rhythm. We prepare for our new students, we hand out assignments, receive the assignments, grade the assignments, hand back the assignments, give out the final, receive the final, grade the final, turn in the grades.

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As the students crawl their way to the finish line of their semester’s work, we slog through the grading of huge piles of papers and exams written by sleep-deprived and possibly sick students. No doubt not their best efforts.

Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning in this ocean of grading. At 20-30 minutes per paper, if I have three classes’ worth, that’s a LOT of time. Somehow sprinkled in-between semester-end meetings.

This year, faced with grading three huge stacks of multi-page final papers, I made very detailed grading rubrics for myself. Instead of writing copious comments on each paper, I circled the selections on the rubric. Why haven’t I done this before? I know what I expect in a student paper. I know the kinds of struggles the students have with writing about science, what kinds of general writing problems students encounter. Why not have a rubric that expresses the kinds of comments I tend to write? (Okay, maybe you have had these kinds of rubrics for years and I’m only just figuring this out!)

Amazingly, the time it took me to grade my introductory biology papers went from about 20-30 minutes each to 10 minutes each! The time to grade my senior final papers, a bigger project, is taking me about 20 minutes per paper instead of 30-40 minutes! I think I actually read each paper in a more careful manner, too, because I don’t keep stopping to write comments. Instead of four days of grading these senior papers, maybe only two?

I do feel a little bit guilty that I’m getting through the stacks so quickly. Why is that? On the other hand…..

Finish line, here I come!

Have a wonderful winter break and I’ll be blogging at you in 2015!


2 thoughts on “The Finish Line

  1. Yes, this semester for some reason the project grading seemed to take longer than usual. Or maybe I was just more pressed for time. Top on my to-do list for next semester: make detailed rubrics for the projects.

    • Thanks for the comment, Melissa! Haven’t heard from you in a while. After all this final-grading is done, I’ll post the rubric, in case you find it helpful!

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