Final Exam Grading Marathon is Over!

I went to my college reunion this weekend [1].

Hanging over my head was returning to school to grade my final exams. Out of my four classes, I only had to give finals to two classes (my seventh grade class and my senior class both don’t get finals). But I dread grading. It’s horrible. And even though it went quickly, it was pure torture.

The funny part is, the actual physical act of grading wasn’t hard. It’s easy to see where students went wrong. And I had such a tight rubric, I knew just how many points to give for each problem before I started grading.

The hard part was seeing what I got my kids (on the whole) to retain throughout the year. And the answer: not too much. Oh yeah, they picked up a few things here or there, but when it came down to it, it was not nearly as much as I thought. I had a few As, but for the most part, the kids were getting Bs and Cs.

Which doesn’t sound so terrible. But the exam was designed to be extraordinarily easy, focusing on basic skills, so easy in fact, that I went into my grading frenzy expecting a spate of As and Bs, with only an occasional C.

How fleeting it is the stuff we teach them! I’m going to think over the summer about redesigning the cours putting an emphasis on retention. This will probably include pop quizzes and spiraling and assigning review homework each night in addition to homework on the new topics. I love dy/dan’s method of assessment, and maybe I’ll come up with a slightly modified procedure for my classes, but one thing his method doesn’t do is account for retention. Once a student passes a topic, he or she is done with it. Chances are that by the end of the year, it has been forgotten.

Perhaps what I’ll do is make a list basic skill topics that all students must master, and allow re-testing on those a la dy/dan. And then give tests and quizzes on more difficult topics which ask for synthesis and application. And then weigh the two types of knowledge in some fair way — like 50/50 or 60/40.

But let’s celebrate! My grading is over, I’ve calculated final grades, I’ve entered them in The System, and now I’m ready to close up shop! Just finishing up this week and I’m done.

UPDATE: Coffee & Graph Paper just posted about his experience doing just what I was talking about. Read Part I and Part II here.

[1]  It was a bit of an alterna-reunion because I didn’t *do* any of the reunion activities. I just met up with my crew and we hung out. Of course I got to see a bunch of other people I knew, but honestly, awkward conversations that get repeated ad infinitum aren’t my cup o’ tea. I got to see the new physics building, which blew my mind. (I would have been a physics major if I had that building to work in!) I got to go to a house party which got shut down. I got to go to a birthday party of a fraternity brother which turned out to be a surprise wedding that not even the bridge and groom’s parents knew about. It was all good times.

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