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Resources for learning how to grade papers


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Hi all -- 


I'm starting my first TA position and my main role will be grading papers and blog posts by students.   My discipline is the social sciences.  I have never had to teach before and don't really know how to start on grading.  Do you have any suggested resources/readings that helps explain how to approach this issue?  I know students can be sensitive about their grades and just want to be fair and effective. 



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Two thoughts come to mind:

1) Utilize any resources available through your university's teaching center.

2) Use rubrics for grading papers. When making a rubric, do not start from scratch. I would instead google around for rubrics for assignments similar to what you're grading and use those as the basis for your own rubric. 

Even using a rubric isn't foolproof. If you want to try to keep your grading "fair and effective"*, remember to take breaks while grading, try to randomize the order of the papers, and make sure that if you deduct for something on one paper, you take that deduction on all of them. That can get tedious though, which is why some use holistic rubrics which don't require you to take off points for every little thing.

*Note: I really don't know what that means or if it's even possible in the social sciences, similar to what you might say about qualitative research more generally. By which what I mean is that there's a broad debate among educators about how to make grading equitable and whether to use a growth model** approach to grading.

**The growth model is appealing for many because it rewards students who are improving even if they aren't becoming a perfect writer in one semester. At the same time, students who are good writers but don't make any improvements don't do as well if you use a growth model.

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  • 2 weeks later...

As a good general resource on teaching, I *highly* recommend the Center for the Integration of Teaching, Research & Learning (CIRTL). 

They offer webinars and online courses in a bunch of areas related to teaching theory and practice at the post-secondary level. 

The CIRTL network is a grant-funded "center" that's made up of a bunch of particular schools centers for teaching and learning, but they also allow students and faculty at "non-member" schools to enroll in most things, assuming there's room. 

The last one I took from them was a 1 credit/1/3rd semester course taught through Vanderbilt's Center for Teaching and Learning, and it was fantastic. I'm now on their mailing list for short courses and seminars, and while I don't have the time to do most of them, they're really varied and interesting topics, and I know several recently have covered grading (and general assessment) strategies. 

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