Weekly Digest #10: How to Grade Writing Assignments

Weekly Digest #10: How to Grade Writing Assignments

As the spring semester wraps up, the grading tends to pile up. As college professors, we’ve noticed that we spend a lot of time grading papers, and we worry about whether the time we put into providing feedback really helps our students learn. We discussed feedback on homework assignments in Weekly Digest #7 and featured a guest post on feedback by a math teacher.

This week’s digest is dedicated to writing assignments. Specifically, how to provide feedback on writing assignments, and how to save time grading writing assignments. When we started looking for resources on this topic, we noticed that many of them provide very similar advice and converge on the same ideas. At first, this seemed boring, but upon further review it is really nice to know that many teaching experts recommend similar ideas!

Our first resource provides information about writing better feedback, with some research-based evidence sprinkled in. It is attached to the Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) program, and you can read more about it below. The rest provide tips about how to save time while grading while still providing quality feedback on writing assignments. While we were unable to find formal research on how to save time while grading, resources 2-5 nonetheless may provide some useful advice. Overall, the resources tend to converge on 4 key ideas:

A) Grade elements of an assignment rather than grading everything, and avoid over-marking

B) Create grading requirements ahead of time and use a rubric while grading

C) Utilize peer-review, or grade things as a class

D) Provide collective feedback to the class as a whole. You can even have students submit assignments electronically and copy and paste comments from a master comment list of common mistakes.

Image from linked source

Image from linked source

This resource provides information about giving students better feedback on writing assignments. This resource, connected with Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) programs, is focused on giving students useful feedback. Thankfully, some of their suggestions actually match suggestions made for saving time while grading. For example, they recommend avoiding over-marking to avoid overwhelming the student. Fortunately, avoiding over-marking also saves time.

If you like this resource, make sure to scroll down to point 06 for their additional resources!

If you’re looking for more information about WAC, this link, written by We are Teachers, describes the program. You can also check out the Wikipedia page describing WAC’s history and major theories. The program has been used in many American Colleges.


2) Save Teacher Weekends: 6 Ways to Spend Less Time Grading Essays by Dana Truby on We are Teachers

This resource mostly expands on the four key ideas presented above, with some additions thrown in!

Image from linked source

Image from linked source


3) Grading Overload: 12 Time-Saving Assessment Strategies by Kim Haynes on TeachHub.com

Again, this resource primarily expands on the four key ideas presented above. Don’t you just love it when experts seem to agree?


We like this resource because it goes through a few different types of rubrics. Specifically, it lists advantages and disadvantages to using holistic or analytic rubrics. If you assign similar types of written assignments hoping to see student improvement, you might consider using an analytic rubric for the first assignment and then switching to holistic rubrics to save some time!


5) Grading Faster and Smarter by Natascha Chtena @nataschachtena on Inside Higher Ed

This particular resource contains more detailed how-to’s designed specifically for new teaching assistants. 

Image from linked source

Image from linked source

Every Sunday, we pick a theme and provide a curated list of links. If you have a theme suggestion, please don’t hesitate to contact us! Our 5 most recent digests can be found here:

Weekly Digest #5: Assigning Quality Homework

Weekly Digest #6: An Introduction To Retrieval Practice

Weekly Digest #7: Grading And Giving Feedback On Homework Assignments

Weekly Digest #8: Study Tips for Students

Weekly Digest #9: How To Talk About Learning Styles