A Grading Survival Pack

On November 20, 2014, in Being a GA/TA, Teaching Tips, Think About It, Tools, by gregorynpaziuk

Maybe it’s the doom and gloom of the internet age, but it’s hard not to feel like the end of the semester is really the end of the world. Deadlines seem tighter. Time seems to fly faster. And if you’re lucky enough to be a GA or TA, there’s also that dreaded, fearful realization…

Picture 1

Yes, UWindsor GAs/TAs, grading season is nearly upon us. It’s not that we like to harp on these things, but grading really does tend to compound misery when you’re already in the midst of a busy schedule of writing and studying for finals. Grading is also a tremendous responsibility in that effective assessment helps students gauge their own development in their field of study. Thus, presents the age-old dilemma: how can we all make grading easier while still providing detailed feedback to our students? Lucky for you, we here at Towards Better Teaching have been writing about grading forever. That means we’ve been searching out the best tips around for tackling all of those grading problems you might encounter – and we all encounter problems in our grading at some point. Spot your question in the list below.

Can’t find your question on the list? Write to us at gata@uwindsor.ca and share your grading dilemmas.


Thank You, UWindsor GAs and TAs

On November 19, 2014, in Announcements, Being a GA/TA, Uncategorized, UWindsor, by gregorynpaziuk

The GATA Network would like to thank all of you that came out for GA/TA Appreciation Day 2014 this past Thursday. Teaming-up with the Graduate Studies Showcase made for some lively conversations about teaching, learning, and the wonderful possibilities available to student teachers here at the University of Windsor. Here’s to an even bigger, better 2015!

GATA Appreciation Day 2014


It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Snow is on the ground here in Windsor. Santa Claus is flying in for visits by helicopter. Most importantly, student papers are flying at GA/TA markers fast and furious.

If you’re in a writing-intensive course, end-of-semester marking can be like holiday mail season at the Post Office in Whoville. There are no ‘cheats’ or corners to cut in providing quality assessment; after all, these marks can help define students’ learning experiences/courses/degrees, even. However, there are strategies you can use to make your marking more efficient. Here are a few:

  • Colour-code your responses. You can save time (and possibly, ambiguity) by using highlighters to indicate the strengths and weaknesses in a paper. About Education explains,

    “Grade writing assignments using only two colored highlighters with one color for strengths, and the other for errors. If a paper has many errors, mark only a couple you think the student should work on first so that you don’t cause the student to give up.”

    Keep in mind, good feedback is what really drives student learning, not simple check marks or x’s, so you will want to provide summary comments that name specifically what these strengths and weaknesses are at the end of the paper.

  • Use short-forms and provide a key to your comments. Especially for recurring or common comments, it can save a whole lot of time to provide abbreviations, numbers, or other codes in the body of the assignment rather than scribble messy notes and confuse your students. As Erin Kelly at the University of Maryland suggests, however, if you use these tools, provide your students with a legend or answer sheet that helps them understand what each term, symbol, or number means.

    E.g.,”? = What is the evidence for this claim? It is unclear here what you are basing your assertion on.”

    “#1 = You need to show your work when constructing equations. Reveiw the example equation in the lecture notes for the basic format.”

    “General = You have committed a generality, meaning that your statement is making an assumption that the principle you are describing is always true when, in fact, there may be more variety in the way it applies in different circumstances.”

  • someecard courtesy of ahundredaffections.com

    someecard courtesy of ahundredaffections.com

    Build in grading time to your schedule, and reward yourself for sticking to it.Stop your eye-rolling, because you can’t fool us into thinking you always plan ahead and leave enough time to tackle those student papers. TeachHub.com suggests that most teachers (regardless of the level of education) suffer from the marking crunch because they simply let it pile up. Add to that pile a queue of your own papers, assignments, and exams, and life gets a lot harder as a GA/TA. A sure way of sticking to your schedule is to reward yourself (a Gingerbread Latte works for me) every time you achieve a goal you’ve set,  such as “Three Days of Marking 20 Papers Per Day”. Also, don’t be afraid to tell people you’re unavailable: interrupting a marking roll is like waking someone during sleep walking.

    GradHacker writers offer a range of tips for staying on schedule with your marking:

  • Be selective about where and how you comment. There is such a thing as too many comments even when trying to provide a student with detailed feedback. In a perfect world, you should only be writing comments that give students concrete suggestions on how to improve their work. In the big picture, that means your comments should be directed at big opportunities for learning. Also remember this piece of advice from the University of Guelph TA Handbook: “If you overwhelm the student with abundant comments on the first page, he/she may not even want to look at the rest of the paper.”

Got a marking tip? Share it with us at gata@uwindsor.ca.


Multimodal Mondays for your Monday Blahs

On November 10, 2014, in Monday Motivation, Teaching Tips, by gregorynpaziuk

Maybe it’s the mid-semester blahs or the looming finals’ marking crunch, but Mondays seem to be a particularly harsh brand of torture for teachers, amiright?

Image courtesy of garfieldh8smondays

Image courtesy of garfieldh8smondays

Usually this is where we would share a LifeHack or a “Teaching Tip” as potential cures for your case of the Mondays. But when it gets right down to it, all you really need to love Mondays again is to be reminded that what you’re doing can be exciting (once you’ve answered all of those emails).

Enter “Multimodal Mondays“, a weekly initiative of the Bits blog from Bedford/St. Martins. The blog, which focuses mainly on the teaching of writing, provides a new and exciting teaching strategy every Monday that focuses on inventive ways of incorporating multimodal elements into lessons (e.g., different forms of communication, such as aural, visual, gestural, etc.). The posts typically cover things like how to use social media to build community in the classroom, rethinking written assignments in visual forms, and so on…all ideas that can apply to any classroom, regardless of subject matter.

So if today is your Monday that just won’t die, why not make the most of it by reading up on what’s hot, new, and happening in the world of teaching?

Visit the Bits blog:




Calling all creative people: the Cultural Entrepreneurship Workshop wants to show you how to make a career of your artistic endeavours. This free, 2 day event (Nov.14th and Nov.15th) has been designed to help creative and arts-focused people learn the career-side of their special talents. The workshop, a joint venture of University of Windsor partners and the Windsor Endowment for the Arts, was recently featured in the Daily News:

The Cultural Entrepreneurship Workshop is designed to prepare participants for the transition from university to lifelong careers. It will provide interactive and informative sessions dealing with finance, administration, marketing, branding, social media, grant writing and intellectual property. Guest speakers include local and international experts from music, visual arts, business, law and entrepreneurship.

To sign up for these free workshops (and their FREE lunch), visit the link below: