With the time change and cooler weather, it means the end of the semester isn’t far off. For most instructors, it’s a mad dash to the finish line. Papers are graded in a flurry and final presentations are scheduled. For some instructors, even with this mad dash, there is no way to get everything accomplished in the few weeks remaining.
I’ll admit, I like to touch every paper that’s turned in by my students. I personally go through every paper and assignment. Part of me thinks that every student deserves my personal attention to offer words of wisdom and guidance. But there is also a realization that at times, someone else may be able to help out.
One of my teaching assignments is a media writing class. This is a 200-level class that focuses on the principles of good journalism. Part of good journalism comes from lots of writing. However, the more writing assignments, the less I can work on other parts of my job.
One of my hesitations with using someone to help grade is journalism can be subjective. Someone may see a situation differently and their story may take a turn. That’s one of the parts of journalism that I like. However, while a helper may not be able to grade everything, they can work on some items, especially items that are controlled.
The other concern with graders is it’s not until you need help that you seek help.
This would allow me to incorporate certain items that can be graded by someone else with training.
Here’s some tips for making this work:
- Plan ahead – By looking ahead. Often professors are caught in the moment, playing catch-up. Look forward to next semester. Now. By spending some time now, you’ll save the time later on, when you can work on other parts of your job.
- Find someone now. If you teach the same class over and over, find someone who sparkles. Surprise, it may not always be the one who talks the most in class. Go through their grades, sometimes it’s the quiet student who excels on the assignments and might make a great grader.
- Find someone who will be around for more than a semester. If you can find someone who will be around for a year or two, rather than a semester, you’ll be able to maximize your training.
- It’s an honor to be asked. Sure, a student may get a good grade in the class, but being asked to help out is different. It shows a mutual respect. Even if you ask several students, you have once again affirmed that they are strong students and teat their hard work is recognized.
- Don’t just turn them loose. Have specific expectations of what you’re looking for and how to phrase items. I help to read student portfolios each year. As part of that experience, we spend time going through rangefinders. Some good, some bad, some mediocre. Yes, it takes time, but the end result is everyone is on the same page, everyone recognizes what is a good paper and what isn’t. I’m planning on spending some time with rangefinders.
- Sample their work. Sure, you got a good grader, but don’t assume everything is going smoothly. Pull out a few papers to see how it is being graded and what isn’t. This also allows you to see the work of students in the class and get a handle on how they are progressing.
- Make the grader report on common items. If students get something wrong repeatedly, flag that. If the assignments are clean, let you know. Consider making the grader complete a sheet outlining the good parts and the parts that need improvement.
At first, this seems like the benefit is only for the instructor. Less grading means more time for other things. In reality, the beneficiaries are the students, both in the class and the helper. Students will get their assignments back quicker and that helps in their development. This will also allow for quicker discussion to review items that are routinely flagged. For the grader, it is a chance to develop their skills. Working with a professor offers a glimpse at the magical world of academia, but it also allows for the development of skills that will shine on their resume. In case you are on to a research check out my other article that I wrote on “Effective ways for Educators to Balance Teaching with Research” for more helpful tips. I hope you find it useful.
So, hurry up, work on finishing off this semester, and while you’re doing that, plan for next semester by getting someone to help you out.