Grading week

[ 3 ] May 2, 2016

Not my favorite part of teaching, this is the week where final projects come in to be graded. Tell the truth, I didn’t much care for grading on any basis: as a student, I was never particularly grade-hungry (and was lucky enough to be part of a generational cohort where having insanely perfect grades wasn’t a requirement to get into a good school, especially coming from Stuyvesant, whose grades were considered on a steep curve by most of the colleges at the time); as a manager, I much preferred ‘essay’ type reviews for my team to the “check the boxes” type; and the only thing I like less as a teacher than grading projects/papers is giving tests, which are silly when dealing with students taking writing courses or doing graduate-level work.

For the courses I’ve taught repetitively, I’ve developed final projects that I think add to the learning process. For my writing course at Manhattanville, I ask the students to develop a pitch–it can be for a novel, a screenplay, a comic, or a business-to-business proposition. Pitching yourself and your ideas is a fundamental task in life, and writing is one of the best ways to learn it. Develop a good written pitch and you think about the structural elements you’d use in a verbal presentation, too. I’ve had some charming and skilled ones over the last few years, and some less so, of course. But I got the surprise this year of a graphic novel pitch that is of publishable quality, which I hope to help the student find a path to publishing. For transmedia: the future of publishing, one of my grad courses at Pace, I ask the students to envision how technology and cultural change will shift a category of publishing in the next few years. I think of it as the Fred Smith challenge. He envisioned the possibility of FedEx in his grad school thesis, and then both improved the world and got rich in putting into effect. Kind of a high goal, but they can get an “A” without hitting that bar.

Time to see what’s in the pile waiting…

Comments (3)

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  1. At the high school level, there is a constant churn of papers to grade and in writing intensive courses such as Creative Writing and Journalism, it is an unending stream of drafts and finals. I, therefore, do not give any tests in either class (save for Current Events quizzes where I try and keep my Journalists on their toes).

    In English, there are county-mandated performance based assessments at the end of each unit so I have the flexibility of limiting testing there, too. Of course, their daily work needs some level of attention and grading so you have it far easier.

    • Paul Levitz says:

      Mercifully (for me and probably for the students) I’ve dodged doing any classes that are structured by any higher authorities–you have my sympathies on that aspect, Bob. My writing classes have lots of short pieces too, but those are relatively painless grading projects every week. The pile isn’t ever this intimidating.

      Of course, the tradeoff is they’re rarely as rewarding as surprises.

      Who’da thunk we’d be sitting here as teachers comparing notes, Bob!

  2. David Baird says:

    I am EFL writing teacher so I do not get to see the quality as you gentlemen. But I am always on the lookout for good teaching ideas. Recently, I was reading of one creative writing prof who had his students just write one story each semester. However during the course they would rewrite the story many times until it was sparkling.

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