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Teacher tricks: Grading & assessment

Welcome to the third and final post in this series focusing on teacher workload, and how technology can assist teachers with the three greatest time heavy activities.

In my first post in the series we explored how redefining what your data is for and how best to capture it can save many hours of tedium and time wastage. My second post examined a number of useful resources for how to create shortcuts in your lesson planning, without sacrificing quality or outcomes.

Today we’ll look at grading and assessment, and how technology can assist teachers to streamline the process, as well as extract more valuable information on how students are tracking on their learning pathways.

Grading: a necessary evil?

Grading and assessments are a hot potato in the field of education, as states and the federal government try to at once apply common standards, but also limit the amount of time students spend sitting assessments. In December 2015, President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act, which pledged to offer the same standard of education to every child in the US “regardless of race, income, background, the zip code, or where they live”. The act is an attempt to bring back some element of control with the recommendation for having fewer tests, of higher quality. States are required to test students in reading and maths in Grades 3 to 8, and then once during their high-school years.

In addition, the federal government has made attempts to standardize the curriculum across US schools through the introduction of the Common Core, a set of “high-quality academic standards in mathematics and English language arts/literacy”. The introduction of the Common Core tests to measure students’ performance against these academic standards, layered on top of existing state-run academic tests, college entrance tests and Advanced Placement tests, has caused confusion and accusations of duplication of assessment.

The bottom line is that teachers across the country are expected to assess students according to a range of standards, without reducing teaching to merely “teaching to test”. Many teachers complain not only of spending inordinate amounts of time grading, but also that teaching to standards also removes some of the joy and fun from both teaching and learning.

Teacher tricks: grading & assessment

So what tools and techniques are there to help you not only organize your gradebooks better, but also streamline the process? Before we begin on the tech, try some of these tips that I spotted in an interesting blog recently. There were three primary suggestions:

  1. Limit how much homework you give
  2. Grade for completion
  3. Most homework grading is FA (formative assessment) meaning you can establish a student’s learning by simply grading every 3rd question, or even just one (works well with math problems).

Now let’s move on to the tech:

  • Rubrics

    Rubrics are an essential teacher tool, that quantify the approach to each assignment, and are natural time savers as they guide a teacher’s thinking — especially in performative and essay-style assignments. However, in themselves they can take a bit of time to create from scratch using Excel or Word. Try, instead, some of these rubric generators online:

    • RubiStar: If you can stomach the Web 1.0 layout and functionality, RubiStar is a decent rubric generator. Unlike other rubric generators it has handy preloaded rubric content, that can be easily selected from drop downs in order to swiftly create your layout. It also has a number of teacher-generated rubrics ready for download.
    • EssayTagger: This is a great site for overwhelmed language teachers, and offers a host of great tools to make reading, and assessing, assignments easier. It also has a rubric maker that aligns entirely with the Common Core standards, which is very handy.
    • Should you be looking for specific rubrics by subject look no further than this exhaustive list from Kathy Shrock.

    If your school LMS has a rubrics feature, by all means give that a try as well.

  • Read more: What is the role of rubrics in performance-based education?

  • Assessments

    The secret to assessments, especially formative assessments, is automation and limitation. As discussed above there’s no reason, at this level, to grade every problem or question. And in terms of automating the process there are also a number of great technologies available.

    • Learning Management Systems: These are a spectacular way to automate and regulate the assessment process. A decent LMS not only has easily accessible gradebooks, but when designing the assignment you can swiftly input how much the assignment is worth in terms of the overall lesson, which automatically calculates the overall grade. The system also has very useful analytics that allow teachers to see a graphic overview of each student’s progress.
    • Google Forms: This is a part of the Google suite that makes automated grading easier, especially with the new version of forms released a year or so ago. To learn about the Google forms and its new features, try this quick tutorial.
    • Videos: Never forget the power of videos! Creating one feedback video that addresses most of the errors and challenges experienced by the majority of students ensures you don’t repeat common feedback per student. Why not create a YouTube feedback channel per class?


I hope you have enjoyed this series on how a set of well-placed technology solutions can assist teachers to save valuable time across the three most time-heavy activities: data management, lesson planning and grading. Please share your time saving strategies with us in the comments section below. ‘Till next time.

NEO Brochure: Assessing students using NEO

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