20 May, 2016
There is nothing more arbitrary to a student than a paper returned with just a grade on it, without comments or merely perfunctory ones. The feedback you provide to students should help them enhance their writing as well as explain why you graded the work the way you did.
Use written comments to highlight strengths as well as weaknesses and offer specific suggestions for improvement. Follow a consistent procedure in reading and grading student writing.
The following are some suggestions on grading papers:
- Read Through The Paper Quickly.
Do not read as an editor or a judge, but as a normal reader of normal prose.
- Write A Summary Comment.
Address the writer and his or her thesis as though both were real and counted for something, even beyond the boundaries of the course. Concentrate on two or three things the writer could do to most improve the work.
- Make Selective Marginal Comments.
Do not delete the text — use the margins, the back of the page, or an appended note. Write clearly; use prose instead of abbreviations. Try to say enough so the student has a reasonably good chance of doing better next time. Comments should be focused on issues of accuracy and completeness of information, logic and appropriateness of style. Guide the student in the direction of significant improvements in thinking and analysis. If you find you are saying the same things to several students, prepare a handout on whatever the students are stumbling over — how to write a review, for example, or how to develop an argument.
- Make Specific, Concrete Recommendations.
Writing “confusing” in the margin may not be very helpful to a student. Instead, write something like “you lost me here — would help if you would first define inertia before proceeding.”
- Mark Only Significant Mechanical Errors Or Grammatical Problems.
Fight the urge to edit the student’s writing (but do highlight instances when grammatical or mechanical errors interfere with your understanding of the ideas they are presenting).
- Find Ways To Treat All Papers Equally.
Scoring both papers and essay exams comprises a great deal of subjective judgment. You are more likely to be more stringent in grading the first few papers you read than you are with the rest, and less likely to be careful in your grading when you are tired.
The following are some advices that may help you prevent problems in these areas:
- Read a few papers before you actually start grading in order to get an idea of the range of quality.
- Stop evaluating when you get too tired or bored.
- When you start again, read over the last couple of papers you graded to ensure you were fair.
- Have students write papers twice. Students submit the first draft and you give constructive criticism on both content and style. Students then revise the paper and you grade the second draft, assigning a grade based on a scoring rubric you have previously discussed with students.
- Return Assignments Within A Reasonable Amount Of Time.
Before you return papers back, it’s a good idea to discuss the common problems you came across. It is helpful to distribute a sheet of general comments to which the students can refer. Consider letting students to rewrite papers. This may seem overwhelming, but in fact, very few students take you up on this, and it will help them clarify their thinking and enhance their editing.