Thinking More about Evaluating Student Work

This is timely for me, as I have been marking lots. The first part of any assignment is to read the syllabus or perhaps to read the assignment. Right?

My blog post on Equality 101 about Student Evaluation  got me thinking about grading this past weekend. I was in the midst of marking quizzes for Gender and International Relations and had just marked more than one dozen papers for The Worlds of Politics. One of the things that I was first struck with for the latter class was how some students refuse to read the assignment directions. This term I also provided a paper checklist, which I borrowed from one of my Teaching Assistants.

Some students attached the checklist and checked off the points that they had followed, but then left other requirements blank or unchecked. This baffles me. If an assignment states that you must cite 5 sources; why cite 3? I dedicated an entire class period to this large paper assignment, made my lecture available as a podcast, and posted my PowerPoint presentation on Moodle, for the students’ review. I also sent a few Moodle (CourseSpaces) messages to the class reminding them about the assignment. Even by doing this, though, I know better than to be too surprised when I start marking. I have done my part. My point here~ follow directions!

Thinking of the upper division course, Gender and International Relations, I was also noticing a pattern of merely restating the question and reviewing the material, but not offering any analysis. I did something different this term in the class and I did not require student attendance. I did not take roll and now into Week 11 of the 13 week term, I realize that I will not do this again. Several students are not coming to class and I think that they would have been persuaded to do so if class attendance influenced their course grade.

What I am getting at here–there is a correlation between attendance and overall course grade for some students. Come to class!

Fri Fun Facts: Following Directions

My Friday Fun Facts for today are about following directions. How many times have you looked at some directions and then realized that you read too much into them? I attended a lunch meeting the other day and wondered why they weren’t providing lunch. I showed up with my own bag lunch and lo and behold lunch was served. I verified the email and the email was clear. I just missed it.

I have been marking blogs and paper proposals this week and I am finding that the first error or misstep that many students hit against is following directions. Directions stated in the syllabus and announced in class. Now, there is a marked difference between the stakes involved with my attendance at a meeting on campus and lunch versus students’ marks. Clearly marks are more important. But, this grading experience is making me listen and read more closely than usual!

I have found a few things work best:

1. The directions need to be clear.

2. Include an example of a good or strong assignment. However, do not expect that is a fool-proof solution.

3. Be patient. Some will argue that they were~ being more thorough, did not understand, never read the syllabus, wanted to do the assignment their own way, etc.

4. Learn from each section of the class and augment as needed the next time around!

5. I want to emphasize patience. As some students do not realize that the assignment guidelines apply to them. This can include the topics and due dates.

Directions and marking offer me teachable moments. Back to grading…