Grading is teaching. Although we often view grading as a tedious task, it is the ultimate teachable moment.


Here are some tips for making the most out of your grading time.

  • Grade what matters most. Both you and your students have limited time and energy. Focus both of your efforts on the most pertinent skills and knowledge. If the main goal of an assignment is problem solving, grade the process rather than just the answer. Conversely, don’t spend all your time grading spelling and grammar if your main goal in an assignment is critical thinking.
  • Hold students accountable. Correcting every error in a student’s work can be counterproductive. “Minimal marking” may work best, which involves giving general comments about what needs to be revised, rather than specific corrections to be made.
  • Create standard responses for incorrect answers. These can be developed over time and used over and over with minor customization. Take advantage of online test features that give automatic feedback about correct and incorrect answers.
  • Share examples of good papers or exemplary lab reports so students know what to aim for.
  • Create rubrics. These do not need to be detailed spreadsheets, but can even be short statements about how an exam or assignment will be graded. For example,

To achieve the full 30 points for this assignment, your paper should:

(Content – 20 points)
Provide a brief but adequate description of the experience
Critique the learning experience based on X and Y’s theories
Contain recommendations or re-design ideas for the future

(Writing – 10 points)
Include 5 pages of quality text
Contain at least 5 cited references
Follow the proper use of CMS
Contain few, if any, grammatical mistakes

  • Share grading rubrics with your students before the assignment is due. Ask them to grade themselves based on the rubric before turning it in. Or better yet, ask students to grade each other’s assignments based on the rubric, and allow them time for revision before you do your own grading.
  • Use the Canvas grading tools. Students at DU expect to see their grades on Canvas, and appreciate knowing how they are doing in class during the term, rather than afterwards. Think of this as formative feedback to students about their progress and what they need to change to improve.
  • Use quizzes wisely. In many courses, there is great need for practice of skills and retention of facts and basic knowledge. In other courses, these skills are not the main focus of the course. It is tempting to use the multitude of ready-made text bank questions provided by textbook publishers if only to ensure students complete the required readings. However, make sure this repetition and practice is essential for the course and not just busywork. Students can not necessarily prioritize weekly small-stakes quizzes over larger, more important assignments.
  • Grade fairly. There is evidence to suggest that when students give lower course evaluation marks to instructors who are “harder,” it is often because those courses are perceived as being “unfairly” hard. All people, including students, like challenge, but only when we feel we have a fair shot at success.

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