Online Writing Lab

Grading Writing

Grading a written assignment can be time consuming and frustrating.  However, there are ways to make the process both quicker and more effective. 

Adapting any or all of the following tips can help with this process, without sacrificing valuable feedback to students:

Use a rubric:  The use of a rubric provides many advantages for both students and instructors, but in particular, a rubric can save time and lead to less subjective grading. See the rubrics page for more information.

Provide positive comments, not just negative ones:  Students are inundated with having their errors pointed out, and because of this, they have a tendency to avoid looking at markings on a graded essay.  If, however, both positive and negative comments are given, students are more likely to look at the essay more closely and evaluate all comments.

Prioritize errors:  Both students and instructors can be overwhelmed by too many marks and/or comments on an essay.  Instead of commenting on all errors, focus on the ones that are particularly distracting from the overall content and leave the smaller errors for another time/assignment/class.

Mark errors without labeling them: Remember, you are a student’s instructor, not his/her editor.  Precisely marking every error in an essay can be counterproductive to student learning.  Because of this, mark certain errors without labeling them.  Doing this requires the student to figure out the error that has been committed and promotes self-learning.  This method can be particularly effective after grammar discussions and towards the latter part of a semester.

Mark initial errors, and then require the students to find additional errors on their own:  This type coincides well with the one detailed above and can be another strategy to promote self-learning.  This can also work well during the rough draft stage or before asking students to revise their writing.

Use a system of markings that correlates with a particular grammar handbook:  If you require your students to use a particular grammar handbook, or reference a particular one in class, use the same annotations that the book does.  This encourages students to use the handbook; this method may also save time when marking papers.

Look for patterns of error:  If a particular student is making the same mistake over and over, it is obviously important to address this particular mistake with him/her.  To do this, don’t mark every single error, but instead mark a few and then explain to the student what the error is and that he is making this mistake repeatedly.  If many students in a particular class are committing a particular error, this is an obvious sign that this particular error needs to be discussed in class.