Writing Resources for
Departments, Teachers, & Students

Handling the Paper Load

Asking students to write more frequently does create more papers, but this doesn't have to mean more work. Here are three steps to manage time more efficiently with student papers:

  1. Create effective assignment criteria. The single best way to make grading easier, more coherent, and faster, is to develop, share, and use grading criteria. Explicit assignment criteria can help demystify for what many students is a very mysterious process by giving students concrete assignment goals, and makes you more able to respond to papers more quickly, effectively, and efficiently.
  2. Share your criteria with students before they write. Work assignment criteria into your syllabus, class activities, and discussion. If you can, give students model papers to show what successfully meeting your criteria looks like. Try a peer review or norming activity to help students gain a deeper understanding of your expectations, practice grading their own and each others’ writing.
  3. Limit your comments. Instructors need not read and comment on everything students write. For low-stakes writing it is appropriate to provide only brief comments or to work commenting into a classroom activity, like peer review. Keep your comments focused on your grading criteria. Marking sentence-level errors requires an awful lot of time while helping students very little. Research has shown that correcting grammar on student papers is not consistently effective and that students can only handle so much feedback before they experience overload. Comments are most effective when they target a few key features.

More on responding to student writing.