I enjoy teaching but dislike giving examinations and grading. Is there something wrong with this picture? I became a college teacher to educate students, not to spend time deciding whether an essay answer is worth a B or a B- or whether average exam grades of 87.3 are B+ or A-. For me personally, grades are a secondary and derivative issue at best, an anguished responsibility at worst.
Why is grading often such a drag? For me, I point to three factors.
- Grading too often ends an inquiry rather than keeping it alive. Grading is verdictive. More often than not, to give a student a grade is to put the period on the end of a sentence. With the term ending, the students probably won't continue investigating the content I've taught them, or with the paper on X written, they probably won't think much about X again in their lives. And since the inquiry is what excites me, grading usually represents a terminus of something good, rather than its continuation. Yes, there are the exceptional students who take grades as ways of continuing to learn, but they are not the norm in my experience.
- Grading invites antagonism rather than collaboration. At its best, teaching and learning is a partnership, instructor and student investigating a subject together. Grading is by necessity not collaborative. (I'm aware that many people have students do self-assessments, which I support, but conscientious instructors still recognize their role as 'the decider' when it comes to grades.) And when students complain about grades, they're not arguing with Aristotle or Mill. They're arguing with me.
- The time spent rarely justifies the meager contribution to learning. The previous two points can be summed up as follows: Grading doesn't usually contribute much to student learning. Add to this that many of us teach large numbers of students, and it strikes me that grading is probably a wildly inefficient way to stimulate student learning: big investment, low payoff.
Do others share my sentiments about grading? Anyone have innovative approaches to grading they'd like to share?