A Great Idea, But…

Somewhere, I had read about a way to make writing assignments easier to grade and more beneficial to students.  The idea was to have students turn in bits at a time, and give feedback on each part.  That way, when students turn in the final draft, it will be really fast to grade because ideally they’ve already made most of the needed corrections.

So I tried it with my honors class.  They were writing a research paper, and it was the first really major research paper they’d ever done.  It was to be five paragraphs (introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion), and I decided to have them turn in each body paragraph.  These checkpoints were not required, and I did not give a grade for them, but I said that taking the feedback to heart would help their overall grade at the end.

Most of the students turned in each paragraph.  Most of those did look at the feedback and make corrections.  But I am not convinced it make the grading process easier.  Instead, it just felt like it took me two and a half weeks to grade body paragraphs, and then I had to grade the final copies on top of that.  I think it helped the students, but it sure felt like a lot more work for me.

Still, maybe I would do it again.  There are always students who don’t ask questions and don’t seek me out for help.  By asking them to turn in what they have, some of those students are more likely to get the help they need than they would if I’d have just tried to move around the classroom to assist them.

One thing I would do differently, though is to ask the students to include their thesis statement each time they turned in a body paragraph.  There were some paragraphs I read that seemed okay, but when I read the entire paper, I realized the body didn’t support the thesis at all.  If I’d asked them to include the thesis statement each time, perhaps I would have caught that major error.

As I reflect on it, I suppose it’s not a bad idea.  I do try to move around and try to give feedback anyway, but having them turn it in puts more of the responsibility on the student than on me.  It allows me to take more time to give feedback rather than trying to get to every student during class.  It helps me to point out errors like citation format.

But easier grading?  Certainly not.

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