I still have all of the essays I have ever written as an undergraduate or graduate student, including all the ones I originally wrote on a typewriter. One from my Shakespeare class still stands out to me for no reason other than there is a spot on page three where the page is wrinkled, and the professor wrote, “Sorry. Water.” It was one of those moments like the one in Mean Girls, one of my favorite films of all time, when one of the high-school students says, “Oh, I love seeing teachers outside of school. It’s like seeing a dog walk on its hind legs.” Of all the things she wrote, I remember that the most because it revealed something about the grading process I had never seen before. She drank water when she graded! All of a sudden, I had this image of her at a table. Or maybe she was sitting on a couch? Was she at home or in her office? I had never thought about how professors graded, meaning when and where they did it and why they made those choices. Like many undergraduates, I just wondered why she and my other professors took so damn long to get them back to us. Sometimes, they took an entire week. Or more!
Students really have no understanding of how grading works, but that is not their fault. Grading is another one of those things that we keep invisible. Here are ProfHacker, we have written about grading often; Natalie collected many of those posts in one of her “From the Archives” collections. I have long used a general Grading Rubric in my classes, and it has really improved student responses to their grades and my comments. But, there have been a few times, usually when I take longer to get work back to them than they expect, that I have tried to explain how I grade and why it can take a while. That is when I thought of writing up a description of my general grading process and making it available to students who want to know or when questions arise in the future. I have done that and posted it to my professional blog. Students can see a link to it whenever they check my Grading Rubric, which I know many of them do often. It is something I am just trying this semester, so we will see how it works out.
How about you? How do you grade? Do you think your students would benefit from knowing more about what you do when you grade? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments.