Help! My grading burden is crushing me!

Authored by Rich Kingsford, Software Development Manager and Adjunct Instructor

    “Every semester, it seems like I have more and more tedious assignments and essays to grade. If I have to write one more red circle, I’m going to strangle someone.”
    I hear you… Grading is a time suck. Let’s explore a few ways to reduce your grading burden.

    Switch to self-grading

    The quickest way to lessen your grading burden is to identify those assignments which are most painful to create, and then replacing them.  

    For those areas and concepts that require memorization, Atomic Assessments has dozens of question types that can easily grade themselves.  How does zero maintenance sound? 

    For those concepts that need to be applied to real-life scenarios in order to be mastered, you might consider replacing large essay assignments with a series of smaller ones.  Written discussions might be even more effective than one person essays.  After all, it’s much harder for one person to break out of their own mindset or identify blind spots or gaps in their thinking.

    Modern discussion tools such as Slack, Trello, Microsoft Teams, and Atomic Discussions make discussion template management so easy, you can do it in your sleep (or on your phone while your kids are at the splash pad).

    Templates and hotstrings

    Grading templates and rubrics are pretty common, but are yours so flexible that you can grade a two-page essay in less than 30 seconds?  One way I do this is to list out the more common mistakes I see in a given essay and then list out the feedback in a template.  Then, I paste the template into the grading system for the student and manually check and erase any irrelevant feedback items.  Easy.  I can manually grade 20 students’ essays with high quality, personalized feedback (well… semi-personalized) in 15 minutes.  

    If you enjoy dabbling in programming, you might try hotstrings. A hot string is when you press one key or the beginnings of a phrase and then press spacebar and it replaces your text (string) with the defined value. For example, I might type “readabilityIssue” (no spaces) and then press spacebar and my hotstring would replace it with “I caught one or more readability issues in your argument.  Please see Writing Clearly, especially chapter 5.”  

    “Yeah… But then you have to remember 100 hotstrings”

    • The fastest hotstring tools (I like Autohotkey) list out your hot strings in an instant and let you press just a single letter.  Pretty cool, huh? If you want to explore using hotstrings, I even created a blog post to walk you through how to use Autohotkey to reduce your grading burden

    How do you reduce your grading burden in your classes?

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