Normally the Progress addresses its opinion to the student body, but this week we are changing things up and giving teachers some constructive criticism.Way back in the day, when some of the teachers at Eastern were students themselves, the standard college course had one main grading component: tests. Students took a mid-term and a final, and maybe one or two other exams along the way. This put a huge amount of pressure on students to do well on tests, because failing your mid-term basically meant you failed the course.
Regardless of the positives and negatives of the old way of grading, today’s grades are completely different. Students are graded on dozens of short-answer online discussion board posts, the clothes they wear for presentations, the feedback they provide to other students, a plethora of mini-quizzes, extra credit assignments, and the always ominous “class participation” component.
With so many different grades coming at students from all kinds of directions, you might think students would be overwhelmed. But students handle it just fine-it’s just another facet of our ADD, everywhere-everything-at-the-same-time generation. It’s actually the teachers that don’t know what to do with it all.
Many teachers misuse, under-use, overuse or just don’t use new grading techniques. The grading times have changed, and the graders have some catching up to do. Here, then, is the Progress’ list of “dos” and “don’ts” for teachers, when it comes to grading.
DON’T choose short writing assignments over actual classroom discussion. If your students are sitting in class and the only noise is that of pencils on paper, you might as well call it a day and send them home. They can write when they’re alone; the same cannot be said for group discussion. Unless you’re teaching calligraphy, only assign in-class grades on things that can only be done in class.
DO ask for short analysis essays that students can use in their class discussions. Students will write more coherently and more thoughtfully if they have time to be coherent and thoughtful. And if they put the time into their out-of-class writing, they’ll be able to contribute that much more to the in-class discussion.
DON’T require students to read a chapter-or even worse, read a chapter and write a summary-if all you’re going to do is lecture based on the chapter notes. Repetition may be a key to learning, but boredom isn’t. By taking this approach, you’re grading the students on what they learned before you lectured, and inviting them to zone out and ignore you.
DO ask students to lead class discussion over one chapter or topic. Teaching something is one of the best ways to learn about it yourself, so making your students teach helps them to learn better.
DON’T grade based on pointless specific organizational styles. Students should be worried about information they forgot to study, not whether or not they numbered their pages correctly and centered the title on their cover page.
DO give online tests. Online tests virtually eliminate cheating off the person next to you because questions can be pulled from a larger pool, giving every student a different but equal test. Grades can be calculated automatically, and students can receive instant feedback when they get something right or wrong. Plus, you’ll score cool points for using the Internet.
DON’T grade based on absences, especially “half-absences” for showing up late. Let what your students have learned be the sole deciding factor in their grade. If your students find your class valuable, they’ll show up.
DO grade tough. Give the appropriate grade for what a student has done, and be prepared to say no when the student claims they should get more credit because they tried hard. Letting students slip by on “effort” when the results say otherwise is not how the world works when you graduate, and there’s no better place for students to learn that than college.