I actually said that out loud, in the hallway outside my office once. It was during my first year as a TA and I was excited to grade my very first batch of reports. My neighbour next door, a former TA for the same course I was currently TA’ing at that time, yelled something along the lines of: “You’re crazy.” It didn’t take long for me to realize he was right.
My first year I was over and under prepared for grading full lab reports. I had grading rubric, my old reports and years of science under my belt. But I had poor time management and organizational skills and my attention to detail was actually slowing me down. I underestimated the actual workload and having all the grading done on time was a mission.
I experimented quite a bit over the years as I attempted to optimize my grading technique. Here are a handful of pointers I’ve established that help me get through the joys of grading:
- Before I start, I read the lab manual. I keep reports from past years as a reference and I look through those. This quick little preparation helps me add details to the grading rubric and I’m aware of things that must in the report.
- I keep a large stash of purple pens. I think the students feel less stressed when they see their reports covered in purple ink as opposed to red ink, which appears more violent.
- I grade in sections and complete that section in one sitting. This way the material is fresh in my mind and I am consistent across reports.
- I consult with my TA partner. Consistency between TAs is very important. And it also allows us to address common issues.
- I don’t procrastinate. I know, easier said than done. But, I learned this the hard way. I used to stay awake till 4am of the day the reports were due to be handed back to the students. It would stress me out and I made mistakes. If issues came up, it was too late to consult my TA partner.
Thanks to these pointers, the last few years of grading have been better organized and I managed to keep parts of the weekends to myself! My increased productivity and efficiency would make me feel good about myself. This would then spill over to my lab work, which is a welcome plus. Also, my students benefit from the consistency in grading, and timely delivery of reports.
Now that I have my first batch of this semester’s reports, suffice it to say, I can always wait to grade reports. But I’d rather not. Please see point 5.
This is the third entry in the blog series, The TA. Check out the previous entry, I don’t give away answers for free. Stay tuned for more!
Banner photo by Maya Patel. Used with permission.