Another dot in the blogosphere?

Grading sucks

Posted on: March 17, 2020

Let’s face it — it sucks to grade papers. Whether you do it well or not, it is tedious work that requires a balance of judgement and empathy. It takes energy and focus to plow through a stack of actual or e-papers.

But assessment and evaluation are where student learning is most evident and where the most learning happens. Only when students are challenged to use what they think they know do they really know if they know.

The teacher also learns more about his or her students during grading. Perhaps not just about their aptitude, but also about their attitude. How the students take care to organise, present, or persuade reveals as much about their heads as their hearts.

This is why I think that extracting principles from video game-based learning is important. Video games test players immediately and constantly. Players figure out strategies — alone or together — and try them out. The test comes before the content. The evidence of learning is obvious because of the test.

So while I plod through a heavy set of papers, I remind myself just how important assessment and evaluation are. They are evidence of learning. They are why I invested months of design and revisions before committing the questions to paper.

But even as I grade, I remind myself that the numbers or letters that result are often barriers to continued learning. Students tend to focus on the numbers or letters instead of the quality of their learning. The numbers or letters scream louder than the feedback that comes from a place of care.

This is why educators need to educate administrators and spreadsheet managers about the importance of formative feedback. The quality of the feedback matters more than the quantity of marks or the distribution on a curve.

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