What’s So Hard about Grading?

From John Tierney:

Teachers: What’s the hardest element of grading for you?

I know that some teachers actually enjoy grading. They say they find it interesting to see what their students have learned and how they’re doing. I admire that attitude. And it’s certainly true that there is the positive feeling that comes from the occasional observation of student improvement, from either increased effort or better understanding of the material. But apart from that, I was never able to get myself into the frame of mind where I could find grading bearable, much less enjoy it. Why not? Multiple factors and worries contributed to the pain:The sheer drudgery and tedium.

Concerns about whether our tests gauge what students know.

Concerns about whether we’re testing what’s worth knowing.

Concerns about what to weigh in making judgments.

Concerns about equity and fairness.

Concerns about comparability of our evaluations.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • scotmcknight
  • MG

    As a Middle School Bible teacher at a private school, my stomach begins to churn as I try to answer those final 5 questions. I worry about this topic almost daily because, in the end, it is inevitable that how I grade (and teach in general) paints a particular picture of Jesus and the Bible for students in an incredibly malleable period of their life. Worst part of the job.

  • http://byzantium.wordpress.com Kullervo

    I think that the fact that college professors don’t have to have any coursework or instruction on testing, evaluation and measurement–or anything pedagodical at all, really–is one of the most broken things about American higher education.

  • http://www.chrisridgeway.net Chris Ridgeway

    I think it’s even harder when grading a stack of paper from a class of people you’ve never met: say like a TA for a certain professor I know. :) No personal connection to the student makes it even more of a machine/assembly line activity, which is tough. I don’t even like folding laundry because of how repetitive it is.

  • Diane

    Chris,

    I find it harder–I teach English and primarily grade essays–when I DO know the students–which I do–because my subjective opinions of them can make it harder to focus on what is on the page. For example, if I know a student is appearing to try hard and yet not producing good work, I will weigh the effort (and wonder if I am being conned)–and it then becomes more difficult to be objective. Grading essays, I find, is more objective than one might think–until the personalities start getting involved. Others would say it is good to reward effort, but I want to do that in different ways … I think the best approach is to recognize none of this is the end of the world (though incessant student pressure about grades makes that a challenge), to remember the quality of mercy is not strained and to work quickly but thoughtfully with little or no second guessing. All of which is, I suppose, stating the obvious!

  • Jon Slack

    I know this is an older post, but I’m about to start my first semester teaching a theology paper and was wondering what people find to be the most effective marking strategy. Do you skim read then read in detail? Do you read through once and comment as you go? Do you limit your comments or let loose? I’ve done some grading before but am still experimenting with technique.


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