Hi, you’re doing it wrong: Grading

As I’ve explained, I started my master’s program a few weeks ago. Through an online program, I’ll have a Master’s of Teaching and Learning in Curriculum and Instruction in 14 months. It’s my first time in an all-online learning environment. They’re doing it wrong.

I’m a pretty decent student.


I like to think. I like to participate. I love to learn.

Oh, and I get good grades.

One quarter in high school I got straight A’s. Otherwise, it was A’s and B’s. Still, not too shabby.

It’s been a while since I’ve been graded.

Turns out I’m perfect.

I really shouldn’t be.

Assignment #1, Parts 1-2-3 was my first attempt at the use of APA style. I’m pretty sure I got it wrong. At least I think I got it wrong a couple of places. I’m not entirely sure.

Here’s what Education Specialist had to say:

ES hit on each of the areas of the rubric. And…well, that’s it.

My favorite comment? “APA was used.”

You bet your sweet bippy it was. Used correctly? Who’s to say?

Well, at least I know how to improve it.

You see that place where ES questions my thinking and points me to places where I can improve in the future?

Yeah, me neither.

Probably just ran out of time.

Let’s take a look at another one. My Philosophy of Teaching. I worked quite thoughtfully on this one. It’s my statement of what I believe as a teacher. I edited it publicly as a google doc and revised more than most anything I’ve written lately.

ES says:

Ok. Note my ability to connect my philosophy of teaching to my learning is worth as much in the assignment as my ability to properly utilize writing conventions. Sure, those are the same things.

Again, no direct questioning or push back. That’s fine, because the assignment was shared with my peers in the course for discussion. Wait. No.

I’m torn on how I feel about the fact that two assignments sit turned in but ungraded.

I teach. I teach in a classroom with 32 learners in each section.

I get that grading in a timely manner can be a bear to say the least.

If the feedback were richer, though, I’d be more forgiving.

If the feedback pushed my learning, I’d be more forgiving.

Neither of those things is happening.

When I saw the score on Assignment #1, I shared it with the rest of the team in South Africa. “That’s great. Congratulations,” was the general sentiment.

While I’m not saying I’d like to have failed, I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about the 53/53.

I worked a long time on that assignment. I didn’t learn much of anything, save for APA style (I think).

In Making Learning Whole, David Perkins provides three types of feedback:

  • corrective: announces what’s wrong “Yes, but…”/”Good, but…”

  • conciliatory: vague, uninformative positive feedback

  • communicative: structured to ensure good communication 1) clarification, 2) appreciation, 3) concerns and suggestions

As a teacher, I’m going to be striving to live more in the world of communicative feedback this year.

I wish ES was doing the same.

Hi, you’re doing it wrong.


6 thoughts on “Hi, you’re doing it wrong: Grading

  1. Although my grad program was traditional, my experience with grading and comments was about the same as you've described here. Very few critical comments, just a grade and circles on a rubric (maybe a “nice work” from time to time). Even when I didn't get a perfect score, no explanation as to how I could improve, just a circle on the “second best” rubric box. Even if I did meet all the criteria and got a “perfect” score, I'd still have liked to know what I could try to do better for next time.Oddly enough, the one professor I had who did provide helpful critical feedback was an elementary school teacher in her former life. As far as I know, the others had all been university-level professors their entire academic career. Wonder if that's significant…

    • Damian, I think you've hit on a key piece here. There's a real hazard to living so long in the realm of theory. It's sometimes what I worry about when I see blogs that live in theory over practice. It's probably the fastest thing to shut down my respect for a speaker as well.How do we solve that?

  2. …and hence the support for critics of online degrees. I know you put a lot of work into your assignments and they were probably more thorough (read: lengthy) than your classmates so maybe that was the ES's criteria for evaluation 😉 By now you may realize is that the grade that counts is your own self-evaluation of your work because at the end of the day (course) it is important that you are proud of your accomplishment.

    • Yes, sort of. I don't know that my own self-evaluation is the grade that counts. If learning is social, and I believe that it is, that aspect of learning is perhaps what counts most to me. What's interesting is seeing that my picture of what school can be and this picture of what school is are dangerously out of alignment with one another.

    • It is a little painful. Sometimes, it's more than a little painful. I'm not quitting. I actually hadn't even considered it until a few people started asking. I want to see this through. As much as folks debate and argue good teaching online, this is a genuine opportunity for me to experience it from a learner's perspective. That might be the only thing that makes me a better teacher. Still, if that's the case, at least I'll be a better teacher.

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