Saturday, October 20, 2012


Oops! ... I did it again

It was an accident.

I gave my students a take-home quiz, due at the beginning of our next class period. This doesn't happen too often, but it's a nice opportunity for them to score maximum points by working together and carefully comparing notes before submitting their results. With a few exceptions (the handful of students who prefer to keep their work as secret as possible), my students spring at the chance to cooperate and rack up the points.

This time was no exception. However, one student e-mailed me with a concern. “Abe” had transportation issues and was afraid he might be late to class or even miss it entirely. As a precaution, he had scanned his solution to the quiz and attached the image to his message. I wrote back to put him at ease, confirming my receipt of his work, and wishing him good luck in making it to class the next day.

As it turned out, Abe was in class that next morning and handed in the original version of his quiz. I slipped it into my binder along with all of the others. Like the absent-minded professor I am, I quite forgot that I had printed out his scan and already had that in my quiz folder. During my grading session that afternoon, I inadvertently graded Abe's quiz twice, marking up both the original and the scan.

I noticed my oversight while sorting the quizzes into alphabetical order for purposes of entering the scores in my gradebook. I placed the two versions of Abe's quiz side by side and discovered that they were still identical: My red-ink marks on the two quizzes were identically placed, the corrections were a perfect match, and both quizzes bore the exact same score.

Naturally I was pleased. Consistent grading is one of the most important factors in treating students equitably. Here I had evidence that my correction process was rigorously—even rigidly—consistent. I have achieved the gold standard in the potentially capricious and subject process of grading!

Either that, or I'm a robot.


The Ridger, FCD said...

Wow. I can see scoring the same, but even the marks were identical?

Zeno said...

Identical. It was uncanny. The scanned image looked like it had been created *after* I graded the original. I really did a double-take.

StonyPillow said...

Robot? That's what they call a pro.

Karen said...

That level of consistency is breathtaking. I don't even write with the same color pen from one day to the next.

Kathie said...

Dang, you're good!

Tualha said...

Two things. First, it's nice to read a story about a conscientious student for once - you have so many who are so very not.

And boy oh boy, I know what you mean about grading. Two days ago I would not have; but I'm taking Keith Devlin's MOOC, and we just started the calibrated peer grading. The first step of which is, grade some practice problems and get 80% of your grades within 20% of the instructor's. Which I found very difficult, but eventually managed, partly by luck I suspect.

And now I've graded three students' final exams, and that was hard too. I suspect I would not be at all consistent.

I guess it's one of those things that takes a lot of practice...