grading written papers / assignments

  1. as is the case in any nursing program, several instructors are involved in the grading of written assignments both within a single course -- and throughout the program.
    some students feel that it is unfair to them when they have a "tough" grader vs. other students whom they perceive as having an "easy" grader. Have any of you (Nurse Educators) had a similar situation? and if so, did the entire faculty address this "concern"? and if so, how? what, if anything, did you or your faculty do?
    personally, i know that my colleagues are conscientious and excellent nurse educators with many years of experience. i do not question their integrity in grading; i also personally feel that such "concerns" of this type are more often raised by under-achievers and the immature -- and our time and energy should not be spent on this. what do you think? also, should such a "concern" even be addressed by faculty?

    thank you. i would really appreciate any input you may have.
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    About psalm_55

    Joined: Apr '06; Posts: 69; Likes: 4
    med-surg faculty
    Specialty: icu, neuro icu, nursing ed

    10 Comments

  3. by   scribblerpnp
    We have had the same complaints in the BSN program where I am an instructor and we are starting to change things this semester. It is the first time we have done it this way, so I don't yet if it will decrease complaints or not. I can let you know.

    Here is what we are doing.

    One main instructor takes responsibility of receiving all of the papers (students must turn in two copies. One with their name, the other without.). The main instructor then assigns a number to that student. Each instructor then is assigned a number. So, in the end as an instructor, we don't know what student has written the paper (that way we won't be influced by outside factors such as hx of being a good vs bad student) and the student won't know which instructor graded his or her paper. If any questions arise, the main instructor has the number key. The reasoning for doing this is some instructors ALWAYS get balmed for being harder graders when in fact they are the same as everyone else, just not as popular an instructor.
  4. by   rpv_rn
    Quote from scribblerrn
    we have had the same complaints in the bsn program where i am an instructor and we are starting to change things this semester. it is the first time we have done it this way, so i don't yet if it will decrease complaints or not. i can let you know.

    here is what we are doing.

    one main instructor takes responsibility of receiving all of the papers (students must turn in two copies. one with their name, the other without.). the main instructor then assigns a number to that student. each instructor then is assigned a number. so, in the end as an instructor, we don't know what student has written the paper (that way we won't be influced by outside factors such as hx of being a good vs bad student) and the student won't know which instructor graded his or her paper. if any questions arise, the main instructor has the number key. the reasoning for doing this is some instructors always get balmed for being harder graders when in fact they are the same as everyone else, just not as popular an instructor.
    very interesting idea. please post outcome results.

    comments at our school is that tenured faculty grade 'harder' than adjunct faculty. we had inservice this past summer about evaluating and grading student papers. based on feedback from some students - this inservice did not work. these students say that their instructor writes "pass" or "fail" without explanation.
  5. by   psalm_55
    thank you both for your input. scribblerrn, i will share your school's method with the rest of faculty at our curriculum workshop.

    all of our graded papers have scoring guidelines with points assigned to each section of the paper. the guidelines are distributed to the students who are then suppose to attach them to their finished paper. of course, some faculty do write comments on them more than others.

    i suppose like both your schools we do need to come to some consensus among faculty thru-out the program.

    again, thank you both. (it helps to know that other faculty have wrestled with a similar issue).
  6. by   puggymae
    We get more complaints from students about this than anything. Alot of it has to do with the instructors education level - Alot of our instructors have a BSN, some have a MSN, others have or are working on PhD's. It seems that the higher the degree, the harder that person grades.
    Someone mentioned adjunct faculty - we have adjunct faculty as clinical instructors but the full time faculty does the grading of care plans/projects/reports. (The course leader for that particular rotation grades the papers).
  7. by   scribblerpnp
    OK, here is the update for uor new method of grading papers. It seems that all of the faculty are grading the papers pretty much the same and each faculty member is handing out the same number of A's, B's etc. The faculty grading the papers ranges from Doctorate level to MSN and we have been consistent with our grading across the board. But I'm the one with the lowest education level, but am very anal retentive and perfectionistic about papers.

    Students are STILL complaining about how "unfair" we are at the grading, but it stems mostly from, "You took off points because I didn't do APA exactly right, or I misspelled a couple of words?!" Uh, yeah we do. That is why in the syllabus, it states grammer and spelling as well as APA are 15% of your grade on the paper! So in the end, it was more work for the main teacher who had to keep track of the assigned numbers, and the students complained about as much as always.

    I am sick of grading papers and clinical papers and CANNOT wait for break when I can just go and see sick kids and chart and go home and do nothing for four weeks!

    Good luck to all you other teachers for the final crunch of the semester/quarter! I'm jealous of you all who are already finished! I'm looking forward to a new semester, new students, new classes. I love the start of the semester, but like the nursing students, right not I'm harried and stressed and ready to get it all over!
    Last edit by scribblerpnp on Dec 1, '06
  8. by   BSNtobe2009
    I think it would depend. I strongly feel that who gives the assignment should grade ALL of the papers associated with that assignment. Inconsistent grading among different instructors for the same assignment is not fair to the students, and isn't giving the instructors a clear picture of the performance of the class, and involves too many different levels of interpretation.

    Please correct me if I have misread your post.
    Last edit by BSNtobe2009 on Dec 1, '06
  9. by   scribblerpnp
    Quote from BSNtobe2009
    I think it would depend. I strongly feel that who gives the assignment should grade ALL of the papers associated with that assignment. Inconsistent grading among different instructors for the same assignment is not fair to the students, and isn't giving the instructors a clear picture of the performance of the class, and involves too many different levels of interpretation.

    Please correct me if I have misread your post.

    I agree with you to a point. I have 100 nursing students in one of my classes, and they had thee papers to write this semester. I graded all of them (even through I have two graduate assistants) because each paper is about 1-2 pages, which isn't so bad, and I wanted to be as consistent as possible and make sure they were doing it right.

    However, the class I am describing above is again 100+ students and each paper is about 30 pages long (however, when you add the appendices which also need to be graded, you are looking at at least 100 pages) and to grade well takes at least 1 1/2 hours per paper. THERE IS NO WAY I could grade that many this late in the semester and keep up with my other classes. I spent four entire days of my break just grading these papers and doing basically nothing else as it was. Case studies are very long. And there are so many things we must look at, APA format, grammer, correct assessment and nursing dx, etc, etc, etc. The list goes on and on.

    Actually, this class has one instructor that teaches the classroom portion, and then there are four other instructors who teach the clinical portion, so I am considered an instructor. And I have found that we were very consistent with our grading. There is a ruberic for grading the paper, which definately helped the consistency part. As I mentioned in the above posts, we passed out almost the same number of A's, B's, etc and my lowest and highest grades given were within 1-2 points of the other instructor's lowest and highest grade given.

    At our facility at least, we are a very closely knit faculty who work well together and often collaborate. I've asked questions with my co-instructors reguarding the papers to make sure I wan't being "too picky" about how many points to take off. The students will still perceive unfairness because, frankly they like some of us more than others. Some of us are "fluffier" and they perceive we grade more easily than others. I am universally well-liked by my students, so they don't complain about how I grade, even though it is consistent with another professor who is not-so-liked whom the students perceive as a difficult grader. Sort of like the old saying, "You attract more flies with honey than with vinegar!"
  10. by   llg
    Quote from scribblerrn
    I
    However, the class I am describing above is again 100+ students and each paper is about 30 pages long (however, when you add the appendices which also need to be graded, you are looking at at least 100 pages) and to grade well takes at least 1 1/2 hours per paper. THERE IS NO WAY I could grade that many this late in the semester and keep up with my other classes. !"
    I am in a similar situation. I have 45 students whose theory papers will be 6-10 pages each. To do each one justice in the grading process ... I should read them carefully and write comments on them to justify the grade AND to give the student some good quality feedback. In my experience with these students throughout the semester, some of them will question their grades and try to get me to raise it, requiring me to be even more careful in my documentation of my thought processes as I read and assign grades. Let's say that takes 1 hour per paper. That's 45 hours of reading and grading -- not counting needed breaks to stay fresh, etc. So, we're talking 50-75 hours of my time to grade these papers.

    I am an adjunct instructor who is teaching this class "for peanuts" to help out a local nursing school because I enjoy teaching this subject and am more qualified than most people to teach it. But I have another full time job at a local hospital. If you figure my hourly rate of pay at my hospital job ... the pay from the school only covers my time until sometime in November. All of the time I have spent on this class after that is work that I am essentially doing for free -- donating my expertise to the education of tomorrow's nursing leaders.

    The students want feedback "in a timely manner" and the school requires that grades be turned in by a certain deadline.

    Where do I get the 50-75 hours it will take to grade these papers?

    1. I will have some help, which will give me only about 30 papers to grade.
    2. I am using vacation time from my hospital job to take a day or two off in the next couple of weeks to work on the paper grading.
    3. I will be working in the evenings and on the weekends -- essentially unpaid overtime during the holiday season -- so that I can submit the grades on time and minimize the student complaints.

    I just thought I would give some of the students a view from the "other side." It explains why faculty members sometimes get in a "bah humbug" mood in December.

    llg
    Last edit by llg on Dec 2, '06
  11. by   scribblerpnp
    Quote from llg
    I am in a similar situation. I have 45 students whose theory papers will be 6-10 pages each. To do each one justice in the grading process ... I should read them carefully and write comments on them to justify the grade AND to give the student some good quality feedback. In my experience with these students throughout the semester, some of them will question their grades and try to get me to raise it, requiring me to be even more careful in my documentation of my thought processes as I read and assign grades. Let's say that takes 1 hour per paper. That's 45 hours of reading and grading -- not counting needed breaks to stay fresh, etc. So, we're talking 50-75 hours of my time to grade these papers.

    llg
    Ok you WIN! Theory papers are the worst. I hate HATE them. I would truely rather dig out my eyes with a spoon (not really, but you get the idea)


    Thank goodness there are people out there like you! It makes all the difference. If it weren't for our adjunct faculty, we would not be able to handle the sheer mass of nursing students we have.
  12. by   BSNtobe2009
    Quote from scribblerrn
    I agree with you to a point. I have 100 nursing students in one of my classes, and they had thee papers to write this semester. I graded all of them (even through I have two graduate assistants) because each paper is about 1-2 pages, which isn't so bad, and I wanted to be as consistent as possible and make sure they were doing it right.

    However, the class I am describing above is again 100+ students and each paper is about 30 pages long (however, when you add the appendices which also need to be graded, you are looking at at least 100 pages) and to grade well takes at least 1 1/2 hours per paper. THERE IS NO WAY I could grade that many this late in the semester and keep up with my other classes. I spent four entire days of my break just grading these papers and doing basically nothing else as it was. Case studies are very long. And there are so many things we must look at, APA format, grammer, correct assessment and nursing dx, etc, etc, etc. The list goes on and on.

    Actually, this class has one instructor that teaches the classroom portion, and then there are four other instructors who teach the clinical portion, so I am considered an instructor. And I have found that we were very consistent with our grading. There is a ruberic for grading the paper, which definately helped the consistency part. As I mentioned in the above posts, we passed out almost the same number of A's, B's, etc and my lowest and highest grades given were within 1-2 points of the other instructor's lowest and highest grade given.

    At our facility at least, we are a very closely knit faculty who work well together and often collaborate. I've asked questions with my co-instructors reguarding the papers to make sure I wan't being "too picky" about how many points to take off. The students will still perceive unfairness because, frankly they like some of us more than others. Some of us are "fluffier" and they perceive we grade more easily than others. I am universally well-liked by my students, so they don't complain about how I grade, even though it is consistent with another professor who is not-so-liked whom the students perceive as a difficult grader. Sort of like the old saying, "You attract more flies with honey than with vinegar!"
    Thank you for the clarification...you are right, there is no way you can go through all of that not be slapping yourself in the face to stay awake!

    HMMMM...I'm picking my brain and thinking if I had a class of something that might be similar, b/c I had to write alot of long papers for my undergrad.

    I did have a couple of professors that used graduate assistants to grade essays for tests and things (not the same...but this may give you an idea)...usually when they returned the papers back to the students, they told us openly, "I haven't graded all of them personally, but if anyone sees something anything that you have a question on, please schedule an appointment with me for a clarification."

    You had to go to back to the professor with something concrete...it couldn't be "why didn't I get more points?". they would refuse to address that....it had to be something like, "I felt I thoroughly explained a, b, c, d, and I have checked my references, and I don't know what more I could have elaborated on."

    I think you are probably going to run into discrepancies with interpretation of adequate content, writing style, etc... b/c spelling, APA, etc...they are "big boys and girls" and should be able to look that up for themselves.

    I thank God every day that when I was in high school, the APA thing was new when I was in the 9th grade...all of the English teachers decided that we were going to start writing APA before it became the standard. Every year, we had to write a term paper at least 15 pages for English. APA was 25% of your grade.

    So by the time I got to college, I had written 4 APA papers and they were no big deal...and the Freshman whose schools didn't do it...were H-U-R-T-I-N-G.
    Last edit by BSNtobe2009 on Dec 2, '06

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