All around the blogosphere, academic bloggers are grading, or, for happy stretches, not grading.  It makes me feel better about my own grading to know that others are mired in grading as well, even if not everyone is indulging in all of the embarrassing behaviors I observe in myself, such as promising myself I’ll grade 35 papers by grading 7 papers a day for 5 days, then revising the promise as the days go by, until I end up grading 30 papers in one day and the last 5 papers before class the next morning.

I’ve taught at an institution that uses narrative evaluations instead of grades, and I can say that although it’s certainly time-consuming to write thoughtful, accurate narrative evaluations, I liked doing it better than traditional grading, and it also made me aware of how much of my comment-writing energy, in traditional grading situations, actually goes toward justifying the grade I am giving–achieving the balance of praise and criticism that will make the student accept and understand the B-plus or the C-minus or whatever.  With narrative evaluations, I wasn’t concerned about justifying the grade, since there wasn’t one.  It wasn’t “This paper has some strengths, but some serious weaknesses” (here comes your C!) or “This paper is very good in the following ways, with a few smaller concerns” (have a B plus!); it was “Hi, student.  Here is what I see happening in your work.  Here we see evidence of progress you have made this semester.  This is what you do particularly well; I admire this.  These are the areas in which you need to work to improve.  By the way, you might be interested in the following books.  I’ve enjoyed working with you and wish you well.”


3 responses to this post.

  1. I totally do the same thing, planning a sane reasonable way to distribute the grading and never actually following up on it.


  2. […] I realized that I’ve had a lot of new readers today: Inside Higher Education linked to my post about narrative grading.  If you’re coming here from IHE, welcome!  I’ll try to be more fascinating tomorrow; […]


  3. […] individual courses (and I’ve certainly experimented with different kinds of grading, including narrative evaluation and narrative-based scales of my own invention—about which more another time.  But most of the […]


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