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.”

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    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. 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.”

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One Response to Tips to Marking Faster (But Still Smarter)

  1. […] Grading under a time crunch? Review our tips for marking faster while still providing better feedback. […]

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