Time-saving Ideas for Grading & Feedback

Giving carefully balanced, constructive feedback and fair, accurate grades is supremely important in teaching. But it can also be very time consuming, whether the teacher is responding to projects outside of class time, or within the context of an in-class critique. Being organized and focused in how we grade and give feedback not only saves time, but also often makes us more confident and objective in our grading.

Onsite and Online

  • Make the assignment clear at the outset. This saves you clarifying basic "not-following directions" errors in the grading and feedback process.
  • Quickly divide projects into stacks or folders of "A work," "B work," "C work," etc. Then go back and respond to each piece individually. First impressions are usually quite accurate.
  • Develop symbols for your most common written comments. A drawing teacher who writes comments on tissue paper overlays may develop something like: SH = shading P= proportion. Online instructors can use html formatting to signal certain types of feedback.
  • Cut and paste your most frequent comments if you write feedback on the computer.
  • Use feedback sheets or grading rubrics.
  • Have the students grade their own work based on particular criteria (and turn their assessment in with the project). Their honesty & self-assessment will not only give you an insight to their learning, but also may speed up the grading for you. (You then only need to let them know whether or not you agree with their assessment and why, rather than starting from scratch).
  • Use an auto-calculation tool such as Easy Grade Pro (available in several departments) or Excel to keep your grades organized and to track student progress easily.
  • Develop a hierarchy of criteria to respond to and choose a level of feedback appropriate to the task. For example:

    1. Give early drafts of a project more feedback than the final drafts, which students are unlikely to revise.
    2. On final drafts, give forward-looking comments that students can take with them into the next project.
    3. Don't comment on "surface issues" if the "global issues" are not in order. For example, if the overall approach to an ad campaign is inappropriate, don't waste time commenting on the copy, as it will completely change anyway.
    4. Summarize group achievement on some assignments, especially those emphasizing basic skills, instead of responding individually. Write (in the OL environment) or give a summary explaining what the class as a whole did correctly and what students still need to work on.
    5. Make graphic corrections on a few pieces for each module or lesson. (Again, good for courses emphasizing basic skills.) Keep a tally of which students' work you have corrected so that you don't make the mistake of always correcting the same students and leaving others out.