More Advice on Efficient Grading

We’re more than 365 days  away from truly putting this year’s final assignments behind us, and sometimes it can be disheartening to provide detailed feedback while suspecting most students look at just the mark.  If we ask for hard-copy final reports in Week 11, that can mean a pile of stored assignments with hand-written comments which only the dust mites see. The eventually shredded documents can trigger pangs of regret for having spent precious time on unappreciated labour.

One approach some instructors have taken is to provide just general comments in the D2L dropbox, or a grade accompanied by an invitation to students to ask for more detailed feedback, if they need it. If you worry about having evidence for a later appeal of files graded online, you could create general categories (such as “expression,” “structure,” “layout”) in GradeMark to drag and drop.

If you have the time or the inclination to provide comments, then you might want to consider tips from seasoned professors. Last year I posted a link to a helpful article for streamlining grading. This year, The Chronicle of Higher Education offers tips from history professor, Kevin Gannon, Director of the Center For Excellence in Teaching and Learning.  Some of us already use some of his techniques, such as giving oral feedback, using rubrics, and copy/pasting common errors. For those who don’t, his explanations provide a rationale for using the strategies he recommends.


Call for Papers

Here’s a call for papers for a symposium at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana entitled, Writing Research Without Walls: A Symposium for Interdisciplinary Writing and Collaboration.  The event won’t be until October, 2018, and the deadline for submission is February 1, 2018.  This could be a great opportunity, if you have the time to create a  proposal. The CUPE professional development fund could cover some of the cost.

The Science of Learning

An old friend of mine, a professor of electrical engineering at U of T who was awarded The University of Toronto President’s Teaching Award in 2016, recommended a book, Make it Stick, as a must-read for those of us who teach at a post-secondary institution.  Drawing on research in cognitive science, and writing engagingly about the data, the authors build a persuasive case for how we learn.  One of their more controversial arguments challenges the long-held assumption that durable learning is possible through repetitive exposure to what you need to remember. Here is a Chronicle of Higher Education review of the book. You can find an eBook copy at our library.

A Possible Cure for Formless Presentations

All of us have experience watching student presentations that dance around a topic but never settle on a clear message.  Text-heavy slides are often symptoms of a student’s uncertainty about what he or she wants to communicate to an audience.  A very specific technique for designing slides for technical presentations that  I stumbled upon this year–“The Assertion-Evidence Model”–could be used to help our students.  The very act of shaping what they want to say to conform to this model compels them to find a central idea and illustrate it meaningfully.  You can find a site devoted to promoting the technique here.  You may find the site’s recommend books useful as well.  Two of them are accessible online through the Ryerson Library.  I’m going to ask our subject librarian to purchase another: Academic Slide Design.

The site was created by Michael Alley, who has written excellent, influential books on technical writing.

Admittedly, the contrarian in me thought that if all students used this technique, it would soon cease to appear fresh.  I’m also a bit hesitant to recommend that slide titles be full sentences, even if they’re concise, because an audience is all the more likely to momentarily lose focus on the speaker while reading.  Nevertheless, the model does clarify in very simple terms how to create a compelling and coherent speech.