Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Joys and Frustrations of Grading

Having just graded another midterm, I realized something.

My favorite part of grading is when I ask a question that I know is difficult (but meaningful), and I see a student just totally nail the right answer on the head. It makes me feel... validated, like here's someone who was paying attention, here's something that I was able to teach.

My least favorite part is when I see an answer that's totally unintelligible, like the student was answering a question that I didn't ask, and it's clear that they either misunderstood the question or else that I'm misunderstanding their answer. On the one hand, I teach game design, not communication, so if the student understands the question and has the right answer and just has difficulty communicating then I feel bad about taking off too many points for it. On the other hand, I can't justify giving points for an answer that I don't think is right. So, I have to dock the points and hope that if I'm wrong, the student has the guts to call me on it (which actually happens a lot less often than I imagined it would). But I just hate the uncertainty.


Lewis said...

Video game design seems to be a LOT about communication, in the long run. You can design non-video games in isolation until it's time to playtest (then communication becomes important), but so much of making a video game involves communication with the designer(s), I don't think you should feel too bad about students who fail to communicate. Unfortunately, the younger ones often fail to read the question correctly, and there's little you can do about that if you have written a fairly clear question.

The students have to learn to answer the question, not spout a lot of stuff that may be true but doesn't answer the question. In the real world you have to solve the problem at hand, not some other problem.

I always have students put their names on the backs of test papers, so I don't know whose I'm grading. I don't want to think "so-and-so knows that, I'll give them a break" even though the response as written fails to answer the question.

Of course, lazy teachers ask all multiple choice questions so they don't have to agonize over the answers. But life is an essay test, not multiple choice, in most cases that are important.

OTOH I've always hated hearing a teacher say "that's not what I wanted". Who cares what you wanted, mate, what did the question ask for? The students shouldn't have to read the teacher's mind. I've had students provide an answer far from the norm, but if it does successfully answer the question as written, they should get credit for it.

Ian Schreiber said...

Absolutely agreed, Lew. I had a poorly-worded question on one exam a year ago: "Do you think that such-and-such is a game?"

It was pointed out that the question was asking the student's opinion, and therefore anyone with any opinion at all had a technically correct answer :)

I changed the wording a bit for this year...