One major lessonI learned last night

I’ll be keeping the final projects for all my classes on file, which means that I’ll be giving students a brief chance to look at them, and then reclaiming them. One thing I learned is that when students have only 10 minutes to check out their writing feedback, half that time is spent hunting for explanations of the grade, and half is spent comparing with others. They tend not to very intensely read my summarizing notes, but if they do, they read it more closely than all the little notes I make throughout the text.

So think I’m going to go easy on the feedback and save myself a headache. Anyone who wants more in-depth feedback can ask me about it. But I’m going to go easy on it today, as I launch into my second major round of grading.

UPDATE: It’s still have to stop myself from making complete feedback notes throughout the text, but I am finding that at least just circling the mistakes pertinent to things we’ve studied, and adding a few notes to things we haven’t that mar clarity seriously, and writing a short bit of feedback at the end has allowed me to up productivity to about 4-5 movie reviews an hour. By that count, I have about 3 more hours to go (before I finish grading this particular class.)

(That’s not counting entering the grades into the computer, copying attendance records over to a clean sheet, and so on. But still, I was doing 2-3 movie reviews an hour before, and the feedback seemed to be too much anyway. I want to offer useful feedback to these kids, since so many of them seem hungry for real pointers as to how to improve their writing, but… too much is too much, and as I keep advising them to know their limits and write what they can competently write, plus a little more, so too must I remember and recognize my own limits.)

Grading to come:

  • around 15 final essays for my Advanced Composition course (around, because one student has stopped submitting work and I don’t know if she intends to complete the course)
  • 15 final projects/presentations in my Media English course, some of which will NOT be essays but rather creative projects (including a radio interview, some series of advertisements, and a very interesting-sounding presentation on the subject of AIDS-prevention PSAs and what kind of approach would be most useful in South Korea)
  • 11 more final presentations in my Public Speaking course, which are graded on the spot and which don’t require more than the filling-out of a form with some notes and grades assigned to different aspects of the speech… meaning, this class’s grading will be complete about ten minutes after the final speech is delivered.

Unfortunately, I also have to type up some feedback for speeches students made last week using visuals. I have scattered notes, and grades, and I trust myself on the grades I gave them, but I hope my notes have some useful points because I don’t necessarily trust my memory to produce typed feedback with very specific information.

Oh, and I have to resubmit the explanation for why I’ll be missing the last three days of semester yet again, because I included too much information last time. All I’m going to say is that the way the Department of Education seems to terrorize institutions is such that the whole system of recording attendance and other information has become inherently deceptive as a means of minimizing the government’s ability to pedantically threaten people for things that anyone with half a brain already knows are happening everywhere… like the fact people don’t book make-up classes for national holidays. One more thing I have to do yet again. One more source of stress, in other words.

3 thoughts on “One major lessonI learned last night

  1. Sounds like you’re massively busy, so I hate to ask, but when things free up….

    Were you planning on moving the rip of “Berta, Berta” back to the new blog? I was so thrilled to see you had it – I’m almost ready to spend $70 just for the movie. For some reason it’s haunting me out of the past. I bought 3 different versions from iTunes, but they’re not the same….


  2. When I realized that students at a university where I teach part-time were often entirely uninterested in the comments I was so conscientiously and laboriously writing on their final papers I hit on what seemed to me a solution. I would tell students that if they wanted to see my comments they needed to submit an addressed,stamped envelope along with the paper. If they did so I would send the paper back to them with my comments. If they didn’t, no problem, it wouldn’t affect their grades. Now, with this system in place, I spend a lot of time writing detailed comments on maybe four papers instead of the thirty or forty it would have been before the SASE system was in place.

    (Invariably one kid who really does want comments forgets to bring an envelope, and I have no problem sporting that kid a stamp and an envelope. The vast majority really don’t care, though, and wouldn’t read the comments with anything like the attention necessary to understand them, so everybody’s happy.)

    The kids in question aren’t English majors. English for them is just another hoop through which they have to jump on the way to engineering degrees, and that may account for their lack of interest. With more enthusiastic students I’ve found it works best to schedule time in class for students to read their comments and to talk with me about them.



  3. That’s a system I’ve used before, too. However, I can’t actually use it here because these essays are the students’ (equivalent to) final exams. I MUST keep them on file so an SASE wouldn’t work. Then again, I could include photocopies with comments. Anyway, you’re right that I need some kind of system to limit the comment-writing. I think the rest of the essays I’ll be grading will include mostly editorial markings (without added corrections) and a few terse comments at the end, along with the invitation to talk with me if they’re really interested in more feedback. In the advanced classes, we’ve discussed writing weaknesses in two previous conferences, so they have a good idea what they’ve been struggling with already.

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