Thursday, May 7, 2015

Grading Rituals

Where do you grade? Do you have grading "rituals"?

The effect of environmental factors was the focus of a recent study conducted by UT graduate students Stephanie Derochers and Stacy Sivinski. They wondered, "Are there any potential correlations between the environmental and emotional conditions in which teachers decide to grade and specific grading practices? I participated in the research by completing a 22-question anonymous survey, so I was especially curious about the results. Stephanie and Stacy also conducted six interviews.

Some of their findings were that coffee-shop graders were less likely to feel rushed and tended to leave fewer marginal comments. The former is true for me, while the latter isn't. Of course, I grade everywhere. Yesterday, I marked papers at the public library, Starbucks, and my recliner in the morning, afternoon, and evening. True, this is unusual for me and is only possible because classes are over, but the truth is I don't have one set practice. I'm wondering if I should.

The researchers found that "Those with the most set & detailed grading rituals ALWAYS reported being 'Calm' or 'Amused' while grading whereas participants who reported having no grading rituals ALWAYS stated that they felt 'Rushed' or 'Stressed' during this process."

I must have stated that I have a limited ritual (usually checking Facebook and email first), because my state is variable, from calm to amused to frustrated, depending on the paper. The closest I have is my Starbucks 'ritual'--I'm there three to four evenings a week, and during the semester it's always to grade. If I had a more defined practice, would the process go more smoothly? Would my comments be more thoughtful? Would I be a better teacher?

I have so very many papers to mark that it's hard to imagine having just one regular practice. I wish the researchers had taken that variable into account, since most of their respondents were probably graduate students teaching two sections a term. I am, however, tempted by the idea of having a regular grading schedule, for instance being at the public library every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon for 2 hours. It's something I'm willing to try this fall, when I'll be teaching lots of new material.

Grading and lunch while at a conference in Toronto

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