Ways to Reduce Your Paper Load

One concern that many instructors have is that adding new writing assignments represents a vast commitment of time. Here are some ways to reap the benefits of new writing assignments without greatly increasing the time you spend reading, grading, and commenting on essays:

  1. Before you begin, consider the assignment’s instructional goals (which you have made very clear to your students) and develop a hierarchy of elements that you will respond to. Concentrate on only the top three prioritized elements as you respond.
  2. Set a timer. Determine a reasonable amount of time to spend on each paper, and try to stick to it. It may take several papers for you to find the appropriate pace, and there will always be a few papers that slow you down, but don’t stop setting that timer.
  3. You don’t have to read everything your students write! The idea behind writing-to-learn tasks is that the very act of writing increases student learning. You can save yourself hours by conducting quick checks for student engagement and effort (and possibly scoring the papers on a check minus, check, check plus scale). (Writing-to-learn tasks completed outside of class that you don’t plan on responding to and returning can be submitted electronically via email or Blackboard’s Digital Drop Box. Save time and also save a tree!)
  4. Practice selective grading. If you assign frequent writing-to-learn tasks, read assignments randomly — either by occasional batches or by selecting a few students each time.
  5. Or, at the end of the quarter allow students to select a few of their writings to be submitted for a grade.
  6. Assign sequences of small assignments that lead to the term paper.
  7. Have students conduct peer reviews of drafts and stepping-stone assignments.
  8. Minimize the commentary on writing that will not be revised, since most of these comments will never be read.

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