By Jeff Schwartz, Instructional Designer
While much of the research into the stress of finals rightly focuses on students, the end of the term can be just as stressful for faculty. This blog collects practices and resources to help streamline grading and reflect on your teaching so that you can end the term feeling less stressed and more energized.
Prioritizing efficiency in grading is one of the Chronicle for Higher Education’s eight strategies for avoiding teacher burnout.
Using rubrics is a great way to grade more efficiently and impactfully. In the chapter on rubrics in Diversity and Inclusion in Higher Education, the authors assert that “rubrics offer the necessary transparency in providing students with clear, accessible, and understandable benchmarks.” The same chapter reports that students felt “less anxious and more confident in working on their assignments when expectations are clearly listed in the rubrics.” And of course, rubrics allow you to give meaningful feedback without spending a lot of time writing individualized comments.
The rubrics feature in Canvas is highly customizable. You can create as many criteria and ratings as you need for an assignment, and you control the point value, or range of points, that each criteria and rating is worth. Rubrics can be reused for multiple assignments, or created for a specific assignment. So even if you haven’t created a rubric yet for your final exam, it’s not too late. Rubrics can also automatically port over grades to the Canvas gradebook, which further simplifies the grading process.
There are also a variety of features in Canvas’s SpeedGrader that can help streamline grading. For example, the Comment Library feature allows you to create a repository of commonly used feedback that can be repurposed as you’re grading student work. This feature is great for assessments that require written feedback where you find yourself providing similar comments for students. A related feature through SpeedGrader is media comments. Media comments allow you to record audio or video feedback for students; these comments can be used in place of, or in tandem with, text comments, and can make your feedback feel more personal and engaging.
Once final grades have been submitted, it can be tempting to put your courses in the rearview mirror and take a break. And taking a break isn’t a bad thing. But once a little time has passed, it’s beneficial to reflect on the past term.
One strategy is to take thirty minutes and free-write; think about what worked well during the term and what you would change moving forward. You can also take a more methodical, data-driven approach and lean on the analytics available in Canvas. The basic course analytics allows you to track activity like student page views or submissions. New Analytics offers more granular data, including the ability to view the average course grade in an interactive chart graph, or send messages to students based on specific course grade or participation criteria.
Whatever your methods, reflecting on the past term makes it easier to refine course material and improve as a teacher. Personally, I rarely teach the same course during back-to-back quarters, so it’s easy to forget what worked and what didn’t; preserving my thoughts a week or two after the end of the quarter makes it so much easier to set goals and gear up for teaching a course again.