Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Grading Cocoon

Grading is not the hardest part of my job. Conceiving of and executing original research is easily at the top of the list, followed by mentoring Ph.D. students in their dissertation work (man that's tough!). That said, grading is definitely the most tedious thing I do on a regular basis. (Don't get me started on committee meetings...)

What this tedium means is that I get distracted very easily. I think I'll go check my mail...I wonder what Paul is up to?...Has anyone e-mailed me in the last two minutes?...Let's check out what's happening on my favorite news sites and blogs...Hey, let's just write a blog about grading!

A way around this, to some extent, is what I've come to call "the grading cocoon." The grading cocoon is where I just put my head down and block out, as much as possible, outside distractions. Just set aside a block of time and "go for it."

There are advantages to the grading cocoon, aside from getting the work done sooner rather than later (which, hopefully, students appreciate). By grading questions in quick succession, without interruption, there is at least the hope that my judgments will be consistent from one answer to the next.

Thankfully, students can help relieve me of some of my boredom. I can't tell you what a happy moment it is when I get to a question that a student has left blank. Talk about quick and easy grading! Sometimes, the help students provide is more intentional. Like the time I asked my research methods class a question about "causal" relationships. (Note the spelling.) In several instances, I received advice regarding casual relationships. As in, "Never introduce him/her to your parents." And, "Don't use nicknames like 'honey' and 'sweetie'." Now those answers woke me up!

~Steve

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