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Assessment: 6 Steps to More Efficient, Effective Grading

Ellen Kottler

Student AssessmentDo you ever feel buried under the stack of assignments, tests, and quizzes just waiting for you to grade? Balancing lesson plans and grading can be a challenge for many teachers.

Here is your six-step guide to help you monitor your students’ progress while managing the amount of paperwork involved with even the most mundane lesson plans.

The Six-Step Guide to Efficient, Effective Assessment

Many new as well as veteran teachers often find themselves with more student papers to grade than they have time. Whether it is homework, class work, quizzes and tests, or other forms of assessment, teachers end up with a lot of student work to appraise and not enough time in the school day to complete the task.

Therefore, it is important to select assessments wisely and strategize when you will read and grade student work. The following questions will guide you in your efforts to monitor your students’ progress while managing the amount of paperwork.

Gauge the Merit of the Assignment

Is this assignment really necessary in order for students to demonstrate mastery of the learning objectives? There is nothing that turns students off more than busy work where they do not see the value of the assignment.

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Discuss with students the purpose for each assignment and how it will be assessed. Be sure they are prepared and have any necessary resources so that they will be successful.

Have Students Self-graded or Self-evaluated When Possible

Students deserve systematic and timely feedback; however, by providing a rubric or checklist, students can often determine for themselves the extent to which they are making progress. You can post answers, solve problems or identify key points on the board then have students review their own work. You might follow up by spot-checking for accuracy. With this process, you do not need to collect homework or class work daily. Many teachers check quickly for completion, perhaps with a stamp of recognition, and collect the work weekly or less frequently for older students.

Decide if Assignments Need to be Graded

Not all work needs to be scored and recorded. You can provide feedback with constructive comment and corrections. You will praise, prompt, and indicate students’ misconceptions to guide their learning. By the time students face a summative assessment, they will be ready to do well based on your feedback and receive a high grade.

Mix Up Assignment Formats

From time to time, you may have students provide an outline of ideas or a concept web which will be easier and quicker for you to assess than formal, written assignment.

Or, you can be creative and have students design performances or projects to document their learning. Also, remember your personal communication with students about their work is a significant way to determine what students have learned.  As you create a variety of assessment, you provide your students with the chance to demonstrate different skills, intelligences, learning styles, interests, and talents. Alternative assessments benefit those whose learning strengths are other than writing and English learners as well.

Schedule Grading Time That Works Best for You

It is important to determine a time when not only you have the energy but also you will be energized by this task! If you are not able to evaluate the work during the school day, you will need to find another opportunity. Some teachers prefer to take a break after the school day and wait until the evening to look at assignments. Others like to wait until the weekend. Yet others like to get up early in the morning when they are fresh. See what works best for you. When are you most efficient? When are you able to work without interruption so that you can use the information to inform your future instruction?

Create Schedule Calendar to Plan Ahead

It takes effort on your part to control the flow of student work. As you deliberate on each unit with its daily lesson plans, think about your goals and the purpose for each assignment. Reflect on which formative and summative assessments will be the most meaningful and how you will provide feedback. Use your calendar to indicate not only when each type of assignment and assessment will take place but also when you will look at and grade the students’ work. By following these steps, you will be able to schedule your time and control the amount of paperwork.

How do you make assessment for efficient AND effective? Share in the comments section!

Adapted from Secrets for Secondary School Teachers by Ellen Kottler, Jeffrey A. Kottler, Cary J. Kotter (2004, Corwin Press).