Will's Coffee House

John Dryden, Dramatist, Critic, Poet Laureate, and my ancestor, frequented a coffee house called Will's almost daily, where he would hold forth on sundry subjects with great wit and aplomb. Same deal here, only without the wit or aplomb.

Location: Large Midwestern City, Midwestern State, United States

I am a stranger in a sane land...

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Grading Woes

Still wading through the huge pile of papers that accumulated in my absence last week and my recovery thereafter. I've got to have them done by tomorrow, and each one takes a little bit longer than the last. With acknowledgments to La Lecturess, I don't know which is worse--awful, awful papers, or simply mediocre ones. Because the awful papers have always struck me as very easy to grade--it's abundantly evident why they suck, and critical comments, both in the margins and at the end (the composition of which is always the most time-consuming part of the process) are just as series of bullet-points identifying the glaring obvious flaws. "This paper sucks, and here's why--boom, boom, boom--'D'--next!" Quick and simple, such papers, though enervating in large numbers, of course. And the great ones are even better--nothing a student likes better than to read "I don't have any substantial criticism to make--here's what great about your work." (This is usually followed by "You have an actual thesis! And you use the assigned text to support it!"--such a rarity in our lives...) But how you explain mediocrity to the mediocre? How do explain why you know, instinctively, that this is a C+ paper--not awful, not good, just...kind of there. Meets the minimal requirements, but something's missing--creativity? How do you quantify that? Flair? Subtlety? These things become almost impossible to articulate, and it's like describing the flavor of a bowl of instant oatmeal--it's not good, but it's not capital-B bad, it's just...a C+ experience. Mediocrity is marked more by an amorphous absence that hard to put your finger on--it's not defined by being bad--it's defined by being "not good'--you can say what it doesn't have, but when it comes time to evaluating what it does, I find myself at a loss for words. Which, prolix and glib fellow that I am, is both frustrating and unpleasantly surprising. Bottom line: I almost wish they were all Ds--it would be easier and faster and the pain would be over. Stupid bell curve...


Blogger CharlieAmra said...

Found your blog through your comments on Minor Revisions. Interesting blog.

I totally agree about grading. The really, really bad papers. . .and the really, really good papers were easy to grade. Those border line B/C+ papers were the toughest. I wrestled with being a softy (giving a higher grade) and trying to be constructively harder(giving the lower grade).

In the end, those papers just took longer. I never found a way to grade them faster.

2:51 PM  

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