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Hemmed In Like a Bore - De File
Does Collecting Make You Feel Dirty?
Hemmed In Like a Bore
I'm still in the middle of seemingly endless grading. And grading is an activity I like less than almost anything on the planet. I'd rather scrub the inside of a toilet bowl with a toothbrush, to be honest. That makes me tired and perhaps a little high on cleaning fumes. But it doesn't make me feel as stupid as grading does. I like most of my students, too. I have some incredibly smart ones this semester, not to mention a host of others whom I respect for working hard. What makes me feel stupid is not so much the fact that I have to read sentences that I would never make public myself, though that does temporarily diminish my own capacity to write, but the realization that grading, at least in the humanities, is far too inexact to be considered a science. I do my very best to treat students equally, while also making allowances for their individual characteristics. Still, the fact remains that I spend more time on the first few papers in a stack than the ones on the bottom and, further, that the longer I spend grading a paper, the less likely I am to approve of it. I have techniques for mitigating this bias. I make sure that the person I grade first for one assignment is the person I grade last on the next. I pick a random paper at various points in the stack and set a timer so that I am sure to give it extra scrutiny. I even read quickly through the entire stack and reorder it so that the papers with more problems are on top. For all that, though, I rarely feel that the grading of papers and exams leads to a decisive judgment student work. On the contrary, I usually end up having to fall back on class participation, the category in which my own subjective preferences loom largest. It's enough to make me wish that I never had to grade like this again. Wishes aside, it 's more than enough to prod me into giving higher grades than I would like simply because I want to correct for my own potential bias.

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5 comments or Leave a comment
e_compass_rosa From: e_compass_rosa Date: December 18th, 2008 01:37 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
You and I have many similarities in our grading practices.
tommix From: tommix Date: December 18th, 2008 02:02 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Our grading practices aren't quite the same, but I regret the pull of bias as much or more than you.
masoo From: masoo Date: December 18th, 2008 02:11 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Here's my feeling: if you took 100 papers and gave copies of each of them to you, to me, to e_compass_rosa, and to tommix, all four of us would come within a + or - on 50 of them, 45 would have 3 in agreement and one 1/2 to 1 full grade different, and 5 would have two pairs of us in agreement and within a grade of each other. Grading is boring, bias is inherent in the process ... and in the end, I suspect we all know the difference between a B and a C, a B and an A. The devil is in the +/-.
jstgerma From: jstgerma Date: December 18th, 2008 02:40 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I'm not sure if I mentioned this to you, but I'm currently TAing an undergrad lit survey at an institution that will go unnamed here, and I just finished grading the final exams. I thought I knew what grade inflation meant ...

But it is easier when you only have two grades to choose from!
From: veggieducksalad Date: December 18th, 2008 10:24 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

toilets and grids

Partly, I've overcome the bias issue with a grid that locks me in to a few limited choices as far as assigning marks. This means that a beautifully written paper that fails to complete the assignment is worth less than a competently written paper that deals with the material in a substantial fashion. It's worked well, though as you might predict, students who don't benefit from the system protest that it's not fair. However, this is a standard cry of protest at my school so I don't worry about it.

As to toilets, I have to say that cleaning them never bothered me that much, unless we're talking about using the toothbrush as a toothbrush again after the cleaning.
5 comments or Leave a comment