Tuesday, September 23, 2014

never again

I'm an exacting grader when it comes to writing. The problem with being so picky, though, is that it takes a million years to wade through sixty or eighty student essays. Over the past few days, I spent about eight hours—almost two hours per class—grading student writing. Tonight was the final paroxysm: it took me four hours to get two batches of papers done. I worked until midnight and was cross-eyed by the end. On each student's paper, I circled, underlined, scratched out, annotated, and listed. I complained about formatting ("Please double-space from now on!"); I zinged students for poor capitalization, punctuation, verb-tense control, singular/plural errors, subject/verb-agreement errors, diction errors, incorrect use of italics, incorrect use of relative pronouns, dropped articles, faulty parallelism, and all the other sins for which Korean students are infamous.

That was a fuck of a lot of work. So: never again! If someone were conducting a time-and-motion study, that person would conclude that I was being woefully inefficient. To which I'd reply: inefficient, maybe, but definitely thorough, unlike those chumps who breeze obliviously through writing assignments while not really paying attention to the nitty-gritty details.

My alternative strategy? Now that the students have some idea of what sorts of errors I'll catch, I will instead merely circle or otherwise highlight errors as I find them, leaving it up to the students to figure out where they went wrong. If I can get my productivity to the point where I'm grading an essay every two minutes, that's about 36 minutes per class and less than 160 minutes of grading in total. That would put me at under three hours for four batches of papers, and I could use the extra twenty or so minutes to write up and upload an omnibus "error sheet" for all the classes to peruse (as I did with this most recent batch of student papers). Much faster that way.

What pisses me off most is that all this grading kept me from walking Namsan tonight. I stayed at the office long enough to encounter the nighttime security guard, who asked me to lock up when I left. I told him about my ID card's problem: I can use the card to get into our faculty office when it's locked, but I can't lock up when I leave. He sighed and told me to turn the lights and A/C off when I left. I imagine that he's the guy who's been closing up after I leave at night. I really need for my card to be fixed: this is posing a security hazard. I'm beginning to think the card is defective and needs to be exchanged for a new one. The office has tried three times now to fix the damn thing, to no avail. This is getting stupid.



Charles said...

I had a very similar experience when I was teaching at HUFS, even though my grad students were at a much higher level than your students. In the first semester I did basically what you did and got burned out. I then gradually introduced a system of colored highlights, with yellow for minor grammatical/spelling issues, orange for relatively minor translation mistakes, and red for "translation-breaking" mistakes. In later years I also introduced the green highlight to give positive feedback on sentences or sections that were done particularly well.

If the students couldn't figure out what a highlight was for, they could come to me for clarification. It worked out quite well.

Good luck with your marking system!

Kevin Kim said...

I like your system, even though it sounds a bit pen-intensive. Visually speaking, it'd make a lot of sense from the student's point of view.

Charles said...

Ah, I should also mention that all assignments were submitted as MS Word files, so all I had to do was use the highlighting function in Word. I imagine it would be more of a pain to do this by hand.

Kevin Kim said...

My brain is stuck back in the 1980s.