Grading the First Quiz

The forecast for rain in the morning followed by sunshine turned into rain in the morning followed by more rain and clouds, so I decided today would be a good day to tackle my first grading assignment as a TA.  The physics for biological sciences class had their first quiz, and I was scheduled to grade one of the four problems.  And after four hours of work, they are all graded, and the grades have been reported.

I’ve gotta say, I’m glad that I graded one of the problems on the first quiz, because I have a feeling that easier problems are easier to grade.  The easiest grades to assign are “perfect” and “zero,” because you usually don’t have to spend much time trying to decipher what the student meant to write, what they were trying to do, how close that is to a correct approach, and finally, how many points that work is worth.  Since this was a pretty straightforward unit conversion, there were lots of perfect responses, which I’m sure greatly reduced the amount of time I spent on the grading.

My method was to quickly go over each paper, sorting them into piles that roughly correspond to grades A-F.  Since there were about 200 papers, this took me about an hour, for an average of about 18 seconds per paper.  The first checkpoint was getting the right numerical answer for both parts (which would have taken me even less time if students knew how to box their answers!  I’m not mad, though.  I’m not bitter).  Students with two right answers go in the A pile, students who only answered one part go in the D or F pile, and I have to look a little more closely to separate the B’s and the C’s.

Since I spent only a few seconds on each paper, grades could change substantially during the second round.  I even found one paper in the D pile that, upon further review, deserved an A.  Also, once I had to put actual point values on the papers, I noticed that a lot of papers in the C and D piles ended up with point values that were much lower than the letter grade I originally gave them.

The second round of grading took about two hours, and then entering the grades into a spreadsheet took about an hour.

I wonder how much longer the grading will take once the problems involve actual physics concepts.  On the one hand, I figure that I’ll have fewer perfect papers, and more in the B/C range, which seems to be the hardest to figure out.  On the other hand, there will be specific concepts that I can check for, and assign points based upon whether they included that concept.  We’ll see how that goes, since I’m one of the unlucky members of our TA group who has to gets to grade three quiz problems this semester.

Next Friday, I’ll be picking up my first set of formal lab write-ups to grade!  I can hardly contain my enthusiasm!  At least my professor is limiting the students to two pages, so I’ll only have about 60 pages to read.

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