Grading Writing

I just posted the following on Facebook: Getting closer to the bottom of the pile of rough drafts. Maybe reading Patrick Bahls’ book has helped, maybe some advice from the TAMU Writing Center has helped, but I am feeling less stressed about it and seeing them showing some good transference of knowledge — trying to use the mathematical models from internships or research to explain what mathematical modeling is. Even if the explanations still need some work.

If you doing it right in posting to Facebook, you are using the principles of good writing. There is always *something* on our minds, but if we are smart, we are thinking about whether or not our audience of friends is interested. If we decide that enough are, we have to put our message together, usually very briefly, so that it informs and entertains. Clarity. Conciseness. Know your audience. Tailor your message for your audience.

Grading: I am trying to only give high-level comments about the papers. Content: did you cover all the points to describe what mathematical modeling is? Did you tell us what the problem of quantification is for (certain) real-world problems? Organization: does your essay flow seamlessly from point to point, or are there jarring transitions? Do you use two examples of mathematical models to explain your ideas? Or do you tack on two examples at the end? Correctness: are you saying things that aren’t true or that need further clarification?

I will circle occasional bloopers, but my job is not to fix spelling, grammar or typesetting. That’s the students’ job. I’m also not going to go through the papers and make a list for them of points they missed. I will mention that material is missing, and maybe an example. They should be able to make a list of what they should hit and go through their paper and check that off. I’m not going to fix their wording. I will react if a sentence is confusing or incorrect.

I hope that putting the final grades on these next week will also go smoothly and less stressfully than last semester. I hope I can maintain this perspective where I am better able to see that they are doing a lot of things right, instead of getting sucked into the many things that I can find wrong.

It feels good to find a paper, perhaps missing a few points that I want them to include, but to realize that the student missed those points because he was trying to transfer knowledge from another experience, and those points didn’t fit in well with that particular story. Then I can praise as well as guidance. That always feels good.

One thought on “Grading Writing

  1. I came to “like” grading writing much more when I switched to writing a “grading synopsis” at the end of each report. I’d employ the old “sandwich technique,” commenting on positive qualities, then offering critical feedback. It felt like a respectful way to interact with the students, and most of them had a pretty good idea of how they were going to do on the reports anyway, based on a detailed rubric. Somehow, it also helped me maintain a good pace while working through a stack of 50 lab reports.

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