Grading, finishing today after having eaten up most of Memorial Day. Just as well, I wasn’t about to try serious gardening in the heat.
I’ve been slowly shifting over to paperless grading. I have enough of an attachment to marking a printed paper that I still sometimes mark the paper once, loosely, by hand and then copy over comments to a digital copy. The digital copy has some advantages beyond allowing potentially for paperless exchanges. Most usefully, it means I retain a copy of the paper with my comments, which comes in very handy when I have to write recommendations, do advising for the student or otherwise have a track record of their past work for me.
Grading is as much of a chore for me as it is for most academics. It is interesting to think about why it’s easily the most hated part of the job.
For one, at least in the humanities and soft social sciences, it’s all too easy to be aware of how arbitrary and fine-shaded the distinction between grades can be. I tend to agonize a lot over the difference between A- and B+, since I regard both of those as strong grades designating good work. A clear A is usually easier to recognize, and grades below a B- tend to involve either serious problems with the quality of the work or other considerations such as seriously late or missing work, which is also a lot easier to discern.
Another issue is that when you have a larger group of assignments to grade, the common or repeated patterns and issues tend to get mind-numbing after a while. I have to keep reminding myself not to punish whomever I’m grading near the end simply for the bad luck of doing something I’ve seen before. (One reason that I don’t put a final grade on a paper until I’ve seen at least half the total set.) There is an unavoidable tedium involved in any group of papers or tests larger than 15 unless the assignment actively encourages a very wide spread of individual creativity or discretion.