Write More, Grade Less: Five Practices for Effectively Grading Writing
The Clearing House A Journal of Educational Strategies Issues and Ideas
One of the dilemmas that teachers frequently face is grading student papers. The grading of writing assignments can be especially problematic. Enter any faculty room and you are sure to hear at least one exhausted educator lamenting over the stack of papers that need to be graded. Teachers can be identified by the multiple bags of papers they haul out to their cars daily. Thankfully, early in my career, I took a writing course developed by Dr. John Collins that made grading writing papers a
... rer and more efficient process. John Collins, EdD, founder of Collins Education Associates, LLC (CEA), is an acknowledged expert in converting research on writing and thinking into practical and time-saving teaching techniques. Dr. Collins is the author of The Collins Writing Program, which is the culmination of over 20 years of work with students, teachers, and school districts. Dr. Collins's proven techniques have benefited more than two million students and have been singled out for recognition by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). Dr. Collins has taught from elementary through graduate school and is the author of numerous publications. The Collins Writing Program presents a model for writing across the curriculum. At its very core is the belief that writing enhances the learning process of any subject at any level. The process I learned helped me manage the "paper load," and provided a concrete way to assess and grade both writing quality and student effort. An added bonus of the process was that it helped me immensely with my classroom management. I used this process successfully in various grade levels and content areas in K-12 classrooms and am now using it in the college classroom. The Collins writing method results in students thinking, writing, and participating more. Experts agree that writing helps students understand and remember content and improves student learning. Research to Practice As a teacher, I regularly read research regarding instructional practices, grading, and assessment, but struggled to translate theory into practice in my own classroom. The intent of this article is to share one method of instructing and grading writing that has a sound research base. This method is easy to implement and makes sense; it provides students with meaningful assignments and teachers with clear guidelines on how to efficiently grade writing. Grading writing will always be somewhat subjective. Using this method can make the expectations more explicit to students and parents. The solution is to slice writing instruction into five specific types of writing, each with a purpose and clear expectation. Each type of writing states explicitly what students must produce and how it will be assessed. This eliminates guesswork from grading, both for students and teachers. The method allows for differentiated instruction and expectations that enables assignments to be modified easily to meet varied student ability levels. The simplicity of Collins's Five Types of Writing is what makes implementation of the Collins method easy.