My Increasing Lack of Grading Speed

I am super-duper behind in all sorts of things having to do with school, largely because I think I’ve taken on just a bit too much work this term. There’s a fine line between being just busy enough to be productive and being busy to the point of being overwhelmed and thus swamped and not so productive. I keep crossing back and forth over this line.

And one of the things that’s complicated this lately is that when it comes to facing student essays/assignments I need to read, comment on, and grade, I seem to be getting slower. I mean a “stack of papers,” but I don’t mean a stack of papers too, because (and this I think is at the heart of the problem for me) I am thinking right now of grading assignments from my online writing class. I am collecting, reading, commenting on, grading, and returning MS Word documents which I never print out.

Two (or one of two) things seem to be happening to me. First, because I am reading these essays on my laptop in MS Word and because that allows me to insert comments with relative ease, I end up inserting a lot (probably too many) comments. Second, I might just be getting old(er), and either built-up grading experiences or the burdens of age and wisdom just slow me down. I think the problem is mostly a technological one, but I don’t dismiss the age factor either. It seems to me that 10 or 12 years ago, when I was a younger grading pup, I could crank through a stack of 20 essays in about two and a half hours. This weekend, it took me more like six or eight hours to read and comment on 20.

For my sanity’s sake, I think I’m going to have to be a bit more “precise” in my time spent with the next batch of essays for my online class. I am just going to have to be less comment-happy, and I will probably return to some of the tricks of the trade from years past. Years and years ago, I was an assistant for a burned-out lit prof in a lecture hall section, and his tip for reading student essays was to make sure you could read and grade 10 of them per hour, five minutes apiece (with a 10 minute break built in at the end). I don’t think I can read these essays at that kind of clip (after all, the things students in this online class are writing are longer and more complicated than in that intro to lit class), but I can try.

Of course, I can’t get any younger.

In any event, have others who read and comment on student work electronically noticed the same thing? Does it seem to take you longer? Or is it just me? And if it is just me, what do you do to be efficient with your grading?

3 thoughts on “My Increasing Lack of Grading Speed”

  1. I haven’t noticed any difference between electronic or hand-grading, but I have noticed over the many years that my grading goes through peaks and valleys–I’ll have slumps every few years when I can’t think of anything useful to say. Then I’ll bounce back. I don’t think it is just you–I think that paper grading can be a time eater when you have more papers than time to grade and/or you have other responsibilities diverting your energy.

  2. My problem is that I hate grading. I hate evaluating writing, whether it’s in FYC or for journals. I love writing, I love working with writers, and I love reading writing. But grading? I’d rather go out into the garden and eat worms. My solution is not to worry about how long it takes me. If I’m spending an hour per paper and enjoying getting into it, fine. If I’m completely indifferent to the activity and am blowing through the papers at a clip of 10 minutes per paper, fine. Whatever gets me through the task!

  3. just today I noticed that the online essays were taking about 2-3x as long as the pencil/paper essays (I have both on my table tonight). Usually when I grade p/p essays, my wristwatch alarm clock goes off every 12 or 14 minutes (whatever I’ve decided is about right) and keeps me from dawdling on a single paper. I hadn’t been timing the online ones. Maybe it was too similar to reading and skimming and moving on. Or, maybe I’m used to editing my own work online and being absolutely precise. Whatever it was, I was hearing the clock go off 2 and 3 times for a single essay.

    It’s my first batch though — so I’m expecting to get used to the format.

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