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.

Is there a sort of thinking/writing/problem solving that students will be doing all term on which early feedback would be especially helpful so that students don’t develop or repeat common errors?
Are there especially difficult intellectual tasks or large projects that could be broken down into steps over the course of the term on which feedback would help insure eventual success?
If students are working in class on practicing things, might that be a good time to provide formative feedback?

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

  • Can you give feedback to the whole class (e.g. read some student work to look for common themes) orally and/or in a shared written document?
  • Can you share exemplary and average (anonymous or volunteer) examples of student work with your comments on them?
  • Can students provide peer to peer evaluation using clear rubrics you have provided? Can they practice some self-evaluation using rubrics?

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

  • Are you making sure that you are grading work that is important to and aligned with your course objectives?
  • Is the material basic level or factual that can be graded quickly with quizzes or a pass/fail or check/plus/minus system?
  • For complex assignments, have you developed specific evaluation criteria at the same time you designed the assignment so that you’re ready to grade efficiently as soon as the work is turned in?
  • Have you considered using rubrics that communicate your grading criteria?
  • Have you considered technology that may increase your efficiency (e.g. rubrics in Moodle or google forms)?

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

For those especially time-consuming grading tasks, can you 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 some time-saving strategies.

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 just some samples of student work?

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 grading, in advance the instructor sets detailed standards students must meet in to achieve each grade and then his/her job is more of just confirming that students did what they aimed for. Standards vary by specific course.

**Consult with CATL to explore any of these ideas more deeply. Call x5106 or email a CATL faculty member for more information.


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: