After completing nearly every household task known to humanity, I finally sat down to grade the semester's first batch of inorganic lab reports. One hour later, I had scores assigned to 12 abstracts. And now I find myself procrastinating even further by writing this blog post.
Why do I find grading lab reports so daunting? I give my students clear expectations (or I hope I do), and each report is handed in with its grading sheet on top. The overall score for a lab report in my inorganic lab course is usually broken down into sub-scores for the abstract, experimental section, results & discussion, and a score for grammar and figure formatting.
Despite my efforts to clarify and simplify the grading process, it's still a challenge. This year I am asking my students to meet with me individually for a 15-minute writing conference in between the 1st and 2nd lab report due dates. My primary goal is to be able to provide encouragement and specific pointers in person in order to minimize the ouch factor of seeing a report littered with green ink. I'm also hoping that these meetings will give me a chance to check in with the students in general about how the course is going for them.
However, these meetings can't happen unless I have 12 fully graded lab reports to return! So I will head back to the kitchen table now. I will be checking back with VIPEr to see if any of you have any tips. How do you approach grading student writing? Do you see improvements over a semester, both in your grading abilities and your students' writing abilities?