Sustainable Course Design: 5 Effective Grading Strategies that Save Time

How can we apply sustainability concepts to course design? Sustainable systems make use of simplicity and efficiency with a “less is more” approach. Grading, for example, should be a targeted, meaningful reflection of learning goals, and not an all-consuming chore. Quality time spent grading should directly correlate with improved student progress.

A good grading strategy starts with efficient assessments. As a rule of thumb: don’t assign something you don’t want to grade. In addition, make sure assessments directly measure
learning outcomes. If you expect students to think critically and work effectively in teams, try using fewer tests, and instead create experiential assessments.

Here are some effective strategies to help you grade smarter, not harder:

1. Praise: Provide students with a list of general strengths demonstrated in their assignments, rather than spending time revising their work. Students may just look at the final grade and not absorb the finer details of your analysis. Praise has a strong positive effect on skill reinforcement and confidence. Define weak areas, but avoid bleeding red on each page.

2. Minimalist: Many instructors want students to turn something in each week. Try cutting that in half. Try giving larger incremental projects with checkpoints. Aim for leaner assessments that target application of knowledge rather than weekly busywork.

3. Peer review: Allow drafts, and have students review each other’s work. These provide ways for students to gain insights from each other’s interpretations, and practice their communication, criticism, and design review skills. Evaluating gives students a chance to demonstrate one of the highest levels of learning.

4. Rubrics: Automate your grading by building rubrics in BbLearn. Once your criteria are spelled out with point levels and percentages, a few clicks is all it takes to assign a grade.

5. No-grade assignments: Self-practice challenges students to learn key concepts on their own, building time management and discipline that pays off with lifelong learning skills.