Grading Philosophy

December 17, 2003

One section has their preliminary grades done. The other section takes their exam tomorrow. Friday I will review all the exams and make sure that the good exams are getting the good grades, the bad grades are going to the bad exams, and so on.

While grading essays this morning I encountered a recurring philosophical problem with grading. Consider two essays, both written to the same fairly specific question. One hits everything that the question had asked about, and does a so-so job. The other only answers a part of the question, but does so suberbly. How do you rank the two in a way that is fair to both students?

I keep in mind that students talk to one another, and I do not want them to think that they can write whatever they like and get a good grade. To be fair to the folks who fulfill the exercise, I have to limit the folks who miss details. Of course, to be fair to the creative folks I also have to make sure that they have opportunities to be creative - something that is missing on the exam I just gave.

I tend to mark down for missing coverage, even if I suspect that the student could have covered the whole question had they tried. I have to grade on what they wrote, not what I thought they wrote, and so just as I grade garbled sentences for what they said and not what they meant, so too do I have to grade the exam they wrote and not the exam they could have written. In the past I have put a soft cap of C+ on off-topic essays. I might revise that, perhaps taking a full letter off, perhaps just playing it by ear.

One of my best students wrote me what would have been the best essay in the class, but she did not hit the whole question. She got a C+ on that part of the exam, a B overall on the exam, and I will see how I feel about it when I re-read exams on Friday.

There is a place for goofy and open-ended questions, and I did not give enough of them this semester. I will add that to my list of changes to make for the next time I teach this.

Posted by Red Ted at December 17, 2003 02:32 AM | TrackBack