Grading and Providing Feedback

Suggestions for efficient and effective feedback and grading

Decide which things students will need feedback on and the timing of when they will need it.

  • Plan early opportunities for students to get feedback on ways of thinking, writing, or problem solving that they will need later, so that they don’t develop or repeat common errors.
  • In-class active or collaborative learning exercises can be good moments to provide formative feedback in class, when students are practicing new skills or learning new concepts.
  • Breaking down large or complex intellectual tasks and projects into steps so that students receive ongoing feedback on key components can help insure learning and eventual success.

Think about alternatives to writing comments on every individual student’s work.

  • Provide feedback to the whole class orally and/or in a shared written document, or have the class read sample student work together to look for common themes or apply evaluation criteria.
  • Share and discuss annotated samples of exemplary and average (anonymous or volunteer) student work.
  • Students can provide peer to peer evaluation using clear rubrics you have provided, or practice self-evaluation using rubrics.

Think about which things need to be graded and what style of grading is sensible for each.

  • Make sure that you are grading work that is important to and aligned with your course objectives.
  • Consider whether the assignment is low-stakes or at a basic or factual level that can be graded quickly with quizzes or a pass/fail or check/plus/minus system.
  • For complex assignments, developing specific evaluation criteria at the same time you design the assignment can help you grade efficiently as soon as the work is turned in.

Think about the timing of when you are assigning things that must be graded.

  • For those especially time-consuming grading tasks, consider what will be happening in class the day after it is due and design tasks in advance or which require less preparation on your part so that you have built in time to grade.
  • Consider when assignments in your other courses are due, and how you’ll manage the workload, as well as how grading while tired, stressed or under a cognitive load can make it more likely for implicit biases to affect grading. One strategy for reduce those is to cloak student names when possible.

Consider some time-saving strategies.

  • Consider methods for making your grading standard and efficient, such as using rubrics that communicate your grading criteria or technologies that may increase your efficiency (e.g. rubrics in Moodle or google forms).
  • Are there pieces of work that can be done in groups so that students learn but there are fewer papers for you to grade? You’ll need to think through how to help students work together effectively and decide which elements are graded individually or collectively.
  • Can you grade samples of student work, rather than every piece of homework? As with pop quizzes, the idea is that every small piece of work needn’t be graded in order for instructors to get an accurate sense of student preparation and comprehension, and for students to get helpful feedback on their work. Not knowing which work will be graded also encourages students to develop consistent habits. Many faculty have students create a portfolio of work for which there are numerous grading options.

Are you interested in using contract grading?

With contract or specifications grading, instructors set detailed standards in advance that students must meet in to achieve each grade. Standards vary by specific course.

**Consult with CATL to explore any of these ideas more deeply. Call x5100 or email a CATL faculty member for more information.

Works Cited & Resources

John Bean, Engaging Ideas: The Professor’s Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom (John Wiley and Sons, 2001).

Barbara E. Walvoord and Virginia Johnson Anderson, Effective Grading (Jossey-Bass, 2010).

Frisbee & Waltman, Developing a Personal Grading Plan

Materials from previous CATL workshop on grading, creating rubrics, or providing appropriate feedback: