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Too Much Time Grading Papers?

Why did I assign this paper?

By Dannelle D. Stevens and Antonia Levi
Portland State University

‘After all, the students resisted writing it, and now I’m resisting grading it!’ Who hasn’t asked themselves that question?

Giving students feedback on their work and grading student papers is all part of our job as faculty. Yet, at some wee hour of the night as we are looking at a stack of ungraded papers, we may well be asking, “Why did I assign this paper?”

We all know the answer. Writing papers is an essential part of learning. Providing informative and timely feedback is fundamental as well.

Our goal is to return papers as soon as possible after they are turned in, preferably at the very next class. So we stay up late. And, then, all too often, students ignore our efforts. First, they turn the pages to check the grade, and, then, maybe glance at the copious notes we labored so long and late to produce.

Unfortunately, all too often we find that students don’t use our feedback. We wonder if all that time spent giving it was really worth the effort.

What can we do to shorten grading time and give feedback that students will read and use? Rubrics, an assessment tool, are one solution. They cut grading time in half, and they communicate our expectations in writing well before students start the assignment.

At its most basic, a rubric is a scoring tool that divides an assignment into its component parts and objectives, and provides a description of what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable levels of performance for each part. They can be used to grade any assignment or task. Here’s how to create your own.

Meet Dannelle D. Stevens and Antonia Levi

Dannelle D. Stevens, professor at Portland State University in Oregon, works in the department of Curriculum and Instruction. She received her doctorate in educational psychology. Her interest in rubrics and assessment comes from her desire to find strategies that help faculty save time, excel in their teaching, as well as engage their students in learning.
Antonia Levi is a retired professor of Japanese history who is now a full-time writer with an interest in improving pedagogy and assessment in higher education. She obtained her doctorate at Stanford University, but her experience in pedagogy and assessment took place at Portland State University in the University Studies Program that focuses on interdisciplinary studies, team teaching, and assessment methodologies.

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