Continuing from Ciara’s post on Monday, here are four strategies Jen and Karly have used in the past to make grading more tolerable and efficient.
Setting a time limit
In previous semesters when we had too many essays to grade and not enough time, we found it useful to set a time limit for each paper. For example, Jen used an old egg timer (Karly used an app on her phone) to set strict time limits for grading each paper. The goal is to make the time limit long enough that you can be thoughtful in assigning points, but short enough that it prevents you from giving lengthy feedback. This time limit will help you focus on the paper as a whole, and not get caught up in one section or paragraph of a particular paper.
Going to a neutral zone
Sometimes grading at home or in the office can be filled with distractions. There are usually more exciting things to do! It can be helpful to go to a local café, restaurant, or even find a corner of the library to hunker down for a couple hours and really get to work. Jen recommends forgoing the laptop if you can, to prevent you from getting sidetracked. This allows you to completely focus on the main task (getting those papers graded!), while being free of outside distractions.
Set up a reward system
Similar to Ciara’s recommendation, breaking grading up into chunks can make the process less daunting. Jen recommends setting up a reward system for when those small chunks are completed. The reward can be something small like eating a fun-size candy bar or listening to a short podcast. The idea is that the reward motivates you to keep working but not be so distracting that it derails your productivity.
Grading by sections
If you are grading a longer paper divided into sections, or a short answer exam, Karly prefers to grade papers based on sections. Instead of grading each student’s entire exam or paper, you can grade one page of the exam, or one section of the paper, for each student. This can allow you to get into a rhythm with that particular section, streamlining how you grade and distribute points. Karly also thinks this helps her grade more fairly, as it allows her to keep in mind which kinds of answers were considered acceptable, and which were deducted points.
Written by Jen Blush and Karly Schleicher