35 Is Grading A Paper Really Worth It?

Jessica Prusina

Writing can be very complicated. There are a bunch of steps that a writer must do in order to have a well written paper. Between the teacher and the student, there is a lot of work to be done on both ends. The teacher has to introduce the assignment, explain to their students how the essay must be written, and even at times teach the students how to write an essay and then read papers and just grade them. On the students’ end, they have to correctly formulate a well written essay which includes, creating an outline, writing a draft, putting the essay together, finalizing the paper, peer reviewing and then editing it to perfection and finally handing it in to be graded.

Imagine receiving 75% on your essay. How does that make sense? 75% of what? Those points may have been taken off for grammatical errors, not following the rubric, etc. But those are things that can easily be fixed. Sometimes, teachers will write “Good Job” and hand you a letter grade, such as a B as if the student is supposed to know what that means. This often leaves students wondering what they did wrong, what grammatical mistakes they may have missed while editing, etc.

Truthfully, a student can change the essay up to perfection if they continue to edit it, so why do teachers find the need to grade it and move on with giving the students a new essay just for the same process to happen all over again? This does not benefit the student in any way and it just gives the teacher more work to do. Many students will receive a paper back from their teachers with little to no comments such as, “Good Work” “Intro is good” “Conclusion needs work”, etc. How is that helpful to the student, especially when it is already graded and in the grade book? Comments on the paper should be useful.

Let’s take this approach: What if the teacher wrote down things on a separate paper and actually wrote down beneficial tips the students can use to better their essay? I don’t mean two word tips, I’m talking about lengthy sentences where a student can fully understand what they need to fix and how to. Doing this can also help those students with writing their next essay. Mitchell R. James wrote, “Another problem with grading….it that it rarely communicates with the students”. Why should we listen to him? Mitchell James is a fiction writer, poet, and an English professor at Lakeland Community College. He also received his Ph.D. in composition. I agree with his statement, because as I stated above, the comments some of the teachers choose to leave are not helpful in the slightest. There are times the student can’t even fix their errors and have to take the poor grade they received. Grading isn’t helping students become better writers, it’s only showing them what they did wrong.

Another aspect to look at is that every student’s writing is different. Every student learns a different way. There are some students who have learning disabilities where they take longer to process things. I think this is important to think about as some students may not even realize they do have a learning disability or they can’t write as well as the other student who can perfectly put an essay together. Obviously, the teacher will give the student with better writing skills a better score than the student who seems to be struggling. Grading an essay simply doesn’t teach the student anything. What it does is tell the student they got a bad score just to write another essay that will have the same poorly written comments such as “Needs more clarity” “Needs improvement: “needs to be longer”. Ok, so what needs more clarity? What can the student do to change that? What exactly needs improvement? How can the student make the paragraph longer?

I am not saying all teachers place these unhelpful comments on these papers, but to the ones that do, how does this help the student for their next essay? What exactly does getting a 75% truly mean? As I said before, teachers take off points for grammatical errors but those are errors that students can easily fix to gain those 10 points back that were lost. As Mitchell R James wrote, “Grading is a silent, one way evaluation, where a teacher assigns a letter grade..”  There are other forms of grading teachers can provide to give a student a chance to higher their grade in an English class. These types of assessments provide the opportunity for two types of evaluations, formative  and summative. Doing these types of assessments can allow students to better their grade and to possibly understand what they are learning.

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Good Ideas About Writing by Jessica Prusina is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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