Saturday, December 10, 2011

To comment or not to comment? That is the question.

I'm grading the last set of papers and am doing this on the iPad for entertainment purposes (mine). I'm wondering what the rest of you do about the following: Do you write comments on their final papers?

Anti-comment reasons:
  • A lot of people say that they don't actually write comments on the final papers since the students won't look at anything except the grades. If the students want to know the reasons, they should come in next semester and ask.
  • Students don't have another possibility to improve in the class, so there's really no point.
  • Students won't see the papers. (While this is true of dead-tree papers, it doesn't apply for electronically uploaded ones, which the students will see via the CMS.)

    Pro-comment reasons:
  • Since I always write the comments, I'm not sure if this is the case, but I'd think that writing comments would forestall email complaints and questions, especially from Very Concerned Students.*
  • There's no way, with the numbers of papers I grade, that I would remember the exact rationale for a particular grade months later, and although my grading standards are consistent enough that I could replicate them in an individual case, I don't want to sit there like a deer in the headlights while going over the paper with the student.

    Your thoughts?

    *Very Concerned Students = those who have told you repeatedly that they intend to, nay, WILL, get an A in the course, whether or not their touchingly high levels of self-esteem match their actual skills and make this a realistic possibility. Such students are hypothetical; I don't have any this semester.

    Stacey Lee Donohue said...

    I do write comments for the same reasons you identify, but not nearly as many. I fill out a rubric, and write a summary comment on their revised essays (their drafts had tons of comments)where I identify the areas they revised successfully and the areas they still need to work on. But how is grading on the ipad? Using a stylus? Turnitin or something else?

    undine said...

    Stacey--I am SO glad you asked! I use iAnnotate & the wireless keyboard, as before, to insert comments, but this time around I'm experimenting with using a stylus, too. I circle some things and scrawl a word here and there in the margins. It's way more entertaining than explaining for the fortieth time how a short story title should be punctuated. If they don't know that by now, they don't get an explanation this time.

    Anonymous said...

    I always write comments, and if the student hasn't graduated, I send the papers back via campus mail. We have to keep the papers some set number of years if we don't hand them back, and I'd rather not have them in my office.

    Students always have a chance of learning and growing even after the class is done!

    Emily said...

    I agree with nicoleandmaggie: as an undergrad, I'd hope that I'd still be able to learn something from the assignment that I can use in future coursework (as well as life in general). I also hope that there would still be things I could improve on in an A paper, although I might only be inclined to ask the professor for comments in person if I received a lower grade. I know that I benefit considerably from being told that even though there were many things I do well, there are always places to be clearer, more detailed, more ambitious, etc.

    I know how labor-intensive it is for professors to give detailed comments on every paper, and so I'm understanding of circumstances when a professor determines that it simply isn't worth hir while. However, I'd say that I've universally gotten more out of written comments than I ever have out of letter grades (whether in terms of seeing how I did on the paper in an evaluative, success-driven sense, or in seeing how I might be able to improve).

    Anonymous said...

    Totally and completely self-absorbed reason I comment on final papers: I scoured the comments on my own papers and an undergrad and grad student, and I pretend my students, likewise, care deeply about getting better as writers.
    And that they actually value my opinion.
    Neither is true, I'm sure, but it's my fantasy, so I cultivate it by occasionally digging up old papers and reading the comments from professors who clearly appreciated my genius.

    Miriam said...

    If I give a final undergraduate paper, I ask if they want comments. Some do, some don't care. The ones who want comments get the usual treatment; the ones who don't...

    Anonymous said...

    I always used to, then quit due to exhaustion and disgust, now do for senior and graduate courses, and for the students at the junior level and below who I think are likely to be interested.

    undine said...

    nicoleandmaggie, Emily--thanks. Those are excellent reasons to write the comments anyway. I still remember some of the comments I got years ago, too.

    undine said...

    Naptimewriting--and the fact that they wrote the comments means that you get to revisit them over again! I could go for seeing some comments like that right about now.

    profacero--do the ones who don't get comments ever complain if they find out that some students have comments on their papers?

    Ink said...

    "It's way more entertaining than explaining for the fortieth time how a short story title should be punctuated. If they don't know that by now, they don't get an explanation this time." Right on.

    At the end of term, I ask them to give me a self-addressed, stamped envelope if they want their final essays back with comments. Those who provide that get comments; the others don't. It's up to them.