Friday, May 8, 2015

Friday Thirsty: in which the Academic is overwhelmed by Grading-Gremlins

Ah, grading, how do I not love thee?  If I could bear to hold a pen a moment longer in my aching paw, I might count the ways. 

It involves judging the often unjudgable, brings out the worst in students, administrators and colleagues, drains the last vestiges of energy and enthusiasm we can dredge up at the end of the semester... the absolute worst thing, for me about grading, though, is the way it makes me doubt myself.  Doubt all the preparation and work I put into the class, sure, but also it sends me scurrying back to my email and my notes -&nbsp
  • surely if all six of these students say a hamster is a kind of horse, there must be a reason for it - was there a mistake in my powerpoint, in the text book, on the assignment sheet?  
  • Johnny has used only gerbil studies references - did I really tell him not to when I gave feedback on his draft? Surely I did... but he's a good student
  • three essays use references to von GoldHamster (2012) to argue that Goebbels-the-Grand-Gerbil-of-Geerbuuldorf banned exercise wheels in the 700s.  I'm sure he actually made them compulsory, but now they've made me doubt my memory, and I need to check the reference again, just in case...
And on and on, especially in GenEd type classes where I make no claim to be entirely on top of the literature.  It makes marking even more painful that it already is.  But what about you, dear Miserians?

What's the one thing you hate most about grading?


  1. Multiple things I hate about grading are how it's so time-consuming and repetitive, and how long periods of sitting and concentrating on it intently result in me becoming smelly. The topper, though, is how it reminds me how profoundly stupid my students are and how futile it is to try to educate them, one reason being they're resisting with all their might.

  2. Trying to remember what I or the textbook said that translated into gerbilish is part of the process. On the flip side, you can't catch all the mistakes yourself: I have a much, much better idea what the textbook gets wrong after students cite it repeatedly....

  3. The part where I am reading final papers/reports and I am correcting the SAME issues again.

    And the time on a TAKE HOME test where a student told me we do photosynthesis!!! It made me question my abilities...

  4. I thought of another as I am reading these papers. The rubric says "Title 1 pt." "Abstract 2 pt." That means you need to have them in/on your paper!!!! My head is going to explode!

  5. Aside from the profound sense of personal failure mentioned in the post, my greatest frustration comes from the utter lack of professionalism that most of my upper-division students display. They don't seem interested in becoming quantitative-hamsterologists. Oh, they all say that want to be one; most want to go to grad-school (despite my efforts to explain the costs and risks to them). But they are not interested in developing the habits of mind or the analytical approach that the job demands, and their work reflects this: papers turned in without a name on them; a page of mathematical scribbles with neither order nor a single phrase in English much less a complete sentence.

    I'm going to give them an prescribed homework format, and start doing reading assurance quizzes in my upper-division class next year. I am aghast to even be considering this, but too many of them show less commitment to class than the pre-meds in my lower-division service classes.

  6. In the large gen chem classes, we use multiple versions of exams. Grading them means sorting by exam version, then making sure you use the right key, etc. You can't memorize the key in your head because you'll get multiple keys mixed up, causing you to misgrade. It's not the worst part of grading but it's a part of grading that is only necessary because students are untrustworthy. Stupid, I can handle that because they can get smarter with my help. They don't get more honest in my classes, though.

  7. Grading always comes at the end of a busy semester, and the thing I hate most is the kind of malaise that follows turning the grades in.
    What I want to do is work on papers, spend quality time with the family to compensate for the prior busyness, and maybe even take a short holiday.
    What my body demands, though, is about two weeks of low culture-fuelled decompression, involving poor choices, worse food, and generally making Oscar the Grouch seem like a ray of sunshine.
    The fact that I know this and yet - so far - have been unable to change, is the thing I hate most about grading.

    1. Here, here!

      You have articulated something I've only known subconsciously until today.

  8. During my time as an instructor, I had to do my share of marking. I hated much of it.

    It was bad enough having to deal with slob work and woolly logic ("But I got the right answer!" "Sorry, kid, but you didn't get it the *right* way."), but what irritated me the most were those students who were ready to wage global thermonuclear war over, say, half a mark, particularly when, one way or another, it wouldn't have made much difference on their overall grade.

    Then there were those students who got their you-know-whats in a knot simply because I added a lot of extra comments or pointed out minor errors, but didn't penalize them. Drafting was the worst for that. I would return their drawings all covered with red ink and, after checking prints while I was in industry, it was easy for m to find them. Were they grateful? Of course not. It was *my* fault for finding those mistakes and, worse, pointing them out to the students.

    Lab reports were just as bad. I'd return them covered in red ink. Some were glad that they were because it meant that I actually read them. The majority, however, thought their writing was on par with Shakespeare and how dare I judge otherwise.

    I'm glad I don't have to do that any more.

  9. I hate the whining. And some of the noises made by the students can get annoying, too.

  10. Partial credit. Goddamned partial credit.