Efficient Evaluation

1st, there’s Richard Haswell’s pretty long article reviewing research and making some suggestions:

"The Complexities of Responding to Student Writing; or, Looking for Shortcuts via the Road of Excess":


2nd, there’s Doug Hesse’s "13 Ways to Look at Responding":
Rich Haswell's "Minimal Marking" is still good advice (with a bit of evidence as well) for dealing with surface problems. Richard H.  Haswell, "Miminal Marking," College English, Vol. 45, No. 6 (Oct. 1983), pp. 600-604.
Finally, you can check out Ed White's Assigning, Responding and Evaluating. Free from Bedford/St. Martin's. Nancy Sommer's article 1982 article "Responding to Student Writing." 

How To Respond to and Evaluate Papers When You Have Several Sections to Read   David Schwalm, email of 10/7/2007.

1. When possible, have all students responding to the same assignment.

2. Students responding to the same assignment succeed and fail in a finite number of identifiable ways. Even at a fairly close level of analysis, their responses are not as unique as fingerprints. (That's why when writing comments on papers you keep writing the same comment over and over.

I discovered some other stuff, but I found these two especially useful when I shifted to using scoring guides. First of all, I have all of the students respond to the same assignment. That way, as a class, we can talk about the essential elements that ought to be in a good response: tone and register, organizational features, issues that must be addressed, and so on. That gives us the essential "writing guide." When I got those drafts, I found that if I carefully read a decent sample of the drafts, I would pretty much discover all of the problems student would have in executing the assignment. Some of the energy I used to put into writing comments on individual papers I applied to writing a really good revising guide addressing the issues that came up in the drafts. The comment I used to write 10 or 20 times, I wrote only once--in a calm cool voice, typed rather than scrawled. I still had the experience of close analysis of student papers, identifying the problems that students were having, describing them accurately, and coming up with ideas of how they could address those problems. What the students got back was their draft--with checkmarks in the margins by grammar, usage, and mechanics issues (thanks, Rich)-- and a revising guide consisting of a checklist of essential elements, each elaborated with comments on problems that had arisen with the execution. I checked whether or not they had addressed the essential element, and I checked the problem they had in doing so, if they had a problem. Usually there were some general comments and suggestions as well. This was like intensively grading one set of papers, developing a revising guide based on that experience, and then using the revising guide to respond fairly rapidly to additional sets of papers. I did this even when I taught only one section because the revising guide was a lot more patient and less sarcastic than I often got when I was weary of grading. Then I could use the revising guide to help me be consistent in assigning grades to the final drafts, without writing extensive comments on a draft they probably would not revise.

In this process, I got the experience of working closely with student papers, but with maybe 20 of them each time rather than 100. I learned stuff about student writing without getting tried and angry.

Clyde Moneyhun's "Less is More in Response to Student Writing" from Strategies for Teaching First-Year Composition (2002) edited by Duane Roen.

Hillocks has a nice summary on the impact of methods of response in Chs 8 and 9 of Research on Written Composition. Extensive written comments do not make a really strong showing.

David E. Schwalm, Dean
School of Applied Arts and Sciences
Arizona State University at the Polytechnic campus
7001 E. Williams Field Road
Mesa, Arizona 85212
Phone: 480 727-1418
Fax: 480 727-1777