How to Cut Down on Your Grading Pile AND Get Your Students to Care About Their Test Grades
While teaching high school math, the majority of my students were those who struggled with math. Most of my kids were boys and they had career goals of working in the coal mines, driving truck, or working for the state road crews. Now these are all necessary, well-paying, and fine career aspirations, but they do make it hard to create buy-in as to why they need to learn to graph an equation of a line! My year I administered tests like most teachers do, I think……Pass out test, kids take test, kids hand test in, teacher grades test, and hands test back at a later date with a grade at the top, kids throw test in trash. Sound familiar?
I would always go over questions that most students missed, asked for other questions, and all those things you think you should do to make sure students realize their mistakes. But the majority of my students were NOT ENGAGED. They weren’t checking to see if they had gotten #11 wrong, too. They knew their grade, for better or worse, and often couldn’t remember how they got the answer they got, and they were done with the quiz/test.
I knew I had to come up with a better way to go over tests with my students. Then I had a thought – when I was doing my student teaching, one of my mentor teachers had students pass their quizzes back one desk and grade the persons in front of them. Maybe there was something in that? I didn’t really like the idea of students seeing each others grades, though, especially since some of my students got pretty low grades on quizzes/tests. But, could I have my students grade their own tests and quizzes?
I gave it a try and I couldn’t believe the change! Students (like, ALL OF THEM!) paid attention, asked me to go over certain questions, AND engaged in dialogue about what they had done to arrive at their incorrect answer!
I also think they liked knowing their grade right after they took the quiz/test instead of having to wait a day or two for me to grade it and enter it in the gradebook. Since they had just done the work, they could remember their thinking for most problems and see their mistakes, where as before they had forgotten what they were thinking when they did #11.
Now, you might be saying….don’t some students cheat? I did take some precautions to limit the possibility of cheating: all assessments had to be done in pencil, when the assessment was done I made sure all pencils were in pockets, on the floor, or in backpacks. Students graded their quizzes/tests in pen(they could use their own or I provided red ones). In the 4 years I graded quizzes and tests this way, I encountered two instances of cheating. I think that overall my students really felt respected that I trusted them enough to grade their own papers. At the beginning of each semester they were often surprised that I was letting them keep their own papers. I think it really helped build an atmosphere of trust and respect between me and my students.
After we had gone over the quiz/test and everyone had their grades, I still collected them and reviewed them (partially for cheating) and to see any trends, etc. that needed to be addressed. Then it was a quick five minutes to put it in the gradebook and done. No huge paper stack staring at me to grade them and/or hand back. Score for planning time I could actually use for planning!
I even handled partial credit with this process. I was surprised how attentive the students were and I could easily specify what I would give a point or two for and what I found was that if there was a question, the student was often more harsh than I would have been. Occasionally, I would increase a grade when I was reviewing the papers because a student was overly hard on themselves.
If you find your students not caring about their grades when you hand back quizzes or tests. If your students don’t want to go over their mistakes on assessments or if you are looking for a way to connect and build respect with your students, you might think about having them grade their own assessments. It doesn’t take much time and the value added is amazing.