Join Kevin Kelly for an in-depth discussion in this video Assessing written work, part of Teaching with Technology.
- In the two chapters on assessment, we cover using technology for lab work, for quizzes, for student presentations and more. But what about assessing written work? We can build a car that can drive itself, so isn't there a robot (laughs) that grades essays yet? I wish. (laughs) I teach an online class with up to 300 students, and there are a number of writing assignments. An essay-grading robot would be brilliant. Until that day comes, though, let's look at technology we can use to assess written work. I'll cover peer-review tools and iterative writing with e-portfolios in different parts of this chapter.
So let's focus here specifically on tools for teachers evaluating individual written assignments. In our bag of tricks, we have rubrics, annotation tools and plagiarism-prevention tools. We'll start with rubrics. If you don't use rubrics for writing assignments, you might wanna consider it. As a matrix of levels of quality for different grading criteria, they outline expectations for students and help teachers in two ways. If we can fight our own tendencies, we can use them to save time and to be more objective.
Rubrics can help us save time if, and only if, we stick to grading only the criteria we've outlined in the rubric. Of course, even with the rubric to help me focus, I'm tempted to give feedback on everything else. Raise your hand if you comment on spelling even though you don't teach a writing class. Here's a tip. If it's important enough to keep pulling your attention, then put it in the rubric. Rubrics can help us to be more objective by providing a norm or reference point other than the strongest essay you've read so far. It's tough to completely avoid comparing students to each other, but that might mean you need to tinker with the rubric's range of scores and what level of work earns what number of points for each criterion.
When we add technology to the mix, we find there are lots of rubric tools out there. Some tools make it easy to create the rubrics, while others allow you to grade assignments as well. If you just want a tool to help you make a rubric, then you can use eRubric Assistant, iRubric or Rubistar. You can usually save your rubric as a PDF, Word or web page. Some rubric tool websites also have databases of existing rubrics you can modify or use for ideas for your own rubrics. Some have examples for K12, others for higher ed, and a few have both.
If your institution has a learning management system like Moodle, Blackboard or Canvas, then rubric tools are built into the system. You can create the rubric and use it to grade individual assignments or projects. The score goes into the gradebook, while the students can see what worked and what needs improvement. While rubric tools guide your grading, annotation tools support the overall feedback process. Tools like iAnnotate for the iPad allow you to mark up students' papers, underline and highlight passages, leave written notes and even record voice comments.
Some instructors create a screencast of themselves reviewing the paper in real time, so students watch a movie instead of, or in addition to, seeing the written comments. A writing instructor at Virginia Tech says she saves time grading papers by recording herself instead of typing comments. Plagiarism-prevention tools serve the function implied by their name. They compare each student's paper against the web, paper mills that sell finished papers to students and other sources. There are free tools that you might suggest to your students, such a Grammarly, to check their own essays for unoriginal content as well as 250 types of grammatical errors.
Tools like Turnitin.com provide more robust options for assessment. For example, the GradeMark tools by Turnitin combines everything I've described, allowing you to use rubrics, save your comments to use again for other papers, annotate each student's work and even leave voice comments throughout the document. Before reviewing the next movie, take a minute to answer the following questions for yourself. How will you use rubric tools to support grading written work? How will you use annotation tools to enhance your assessment practice? And, what aspects of plagiarism prevention or citation instruction will technology support for your students?
Author Kevin Kelly explains how learning outcomes can be adapted to support technology in the classroom, and guides educators through selecting the appropriate technology for their activity, module, or class. Then he shows how to apply technology in three key areas: finding, creating, and sharing content with students; facilitating classroom activities; and assessing learning inside the classroom or online.
- Including technology in your learning outcomes
- Applying Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles
- Finding and creating content and instructional materials
- Enhancing lectures and presentations with technology
- Getting students involved
- Facilitating in-class activities
- Assessing learning
- Teaching effectively online