Grading & Feedback

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Grading and feedback are among the most powerful ways in which teachers communicate with students. They are interconnected tools for teachers to express what they think students should be learning, and for helping students make progress toward those goals. In order for students to understand and make use of grades and feedback, faculty and teaching fellows need to ensure:

  1. Purpose
    Consider and tell students the purpose of both grades and feedback in any course. Are grades a measure of achievement? A comparison to other students? A comparison to an absolute standard? What should students do with thefeedback they receive – incorporate it into the next assignment? Use it to study for exams? Employ it in later courses or research within their concentrations? Transparency about purpose helps students align their expectations and actions with those of their instructors.

  2. Clarity
    Whatever grading standards are employed within a course should be set forth in the syllabus clearly, at the beginning of the term. When students do not know how they are being evaluated, grades become a game of guessing what the instructor wants, rather than learning the content and skills at the heart of the course. Likewise, feedback to students needs to be expressed clearly, offering an explanation of what students are doing well, what they need to work on, and how to go about improving.

  3. Consistency
    Though it seems obvious, maintaining consistent gradingstandards across a large course can be challenging. Discussing the grading standards with the entire course staff, using a rubric, and cross-checking grading between section leaders are all good practices that can help. Likewise, instructors within a course must agree on the amount and type of feedback they will provide for students (written, verbal, quantitative, etc.).


Self-Assessment of Student Papers


Self-assessments are designed to help determine what your students already know about their papers, and therefore facilitate your commenting. You might tell them you'll read the form after you read the paper, so that their words will not bias your judgment. If your students submit papers electronically, you can have them reply to the self-assessment questions over email.

The students' responses to the form's questions can also help you make a potentially negative comment positive. For example, if the student indicates the main point clearly under #1, you can say,"You're very clear about your thesis in your self-assessment. Where have you put it in the paper?" Or if under #2, about additional time, the student says that she would have improved the order of ideas, you can say "You're right. The order isn't logical" and then give suggestions – sometimes they'll even tell you how they would have changed it. Question #3 (or #5 on the longer form) alerts you to your students' anxieties and questions you may never have imagined. Again, it's a useful way to reassure them and critique their papers diplomatically.


Grading & Feedback Resources


Grading

Feedback