Tag Archives: grading

Link: Perrin on robo-grading

My colleague Dave Perrin has written eloquently in this English Journal article about some of the issues we writing teachers have about “robo-grading,” where computers grade student writing. I particularly like:

When facts, logic, and truth become dispensable in the assessment of writing, then writing instruction, ostensibly, will become focused solely on the mechanics of writing. So much for the short-lived return to critical thinking that the Common Core State Standards initiative promises to bring back to the English curriculum. Although the e-Rater and its brethren may not be interested in the truth, the truth is that writing teachers always have been.


“good” writing is always subjective. English
teachers are notorious for their pet peeves and personal opinions of what is “good.” Over time, astute student writers will collect these hallmarks of good writing from various teachers, stack them against one another and their own, reject some and embrace others, and eventually develop their own style and criteria for good writing. The adoption of such a narrowly defined concept of writing in which, for instance, each sentence in a student essay must be at least 15 words long or contain a conjunctive adverb, threatens this process.


The proponents of robo-grading laud it precisely because it provides some sort of objective quantification of writing, but writing teachers
know that a certain degree of subjectivity is inescapable, and indeed even essential to the assessment of writing, as the self cannot be removed from the act of reading (or grading) any more than it can be removed from the act of writing. Students must be taught to read and write in a world where facts matter, where logic is challenged, and where the “truth” is often not only subjective but also subject to nearly inscrutable nuances.

Links: 10 Jan. 2013

It seems I’ve got several things I want to post, and not much time tonight in which to post them:

1. Paul Krugman makes an interesting philosophical point about value, drawing a distinction between those who see value as coming from someplace beyond the human realm, and those who see humans as the arbiters of value. He’s talking about money, yes, but also more than just money — and I think this idea of value, of where it comes from, and along with it, meaning, coming from outside vs. coming from within is a valuable one (he said, siding with the later distinction).

2. Anachronistic words in the “Lincoln” movie.

3. An article about a new book by Danny Gregory, about his wife’s death. I had really enjoyed finding and reading his book “Everyday Matters,” which contained his writing and drawings about his life with his family after his wife’s paralysis, and I felt sad today to hear that she had died, and that his new book is about his grief. I’m eager to read the new book. Here’s also his web site with his other work.

4. “Why teachers secretly hate grading papers.” (“Secretly?” is what I’ve been wanting to say since I thought of posting this.) This experienced teacher makes a good point about the drudgery — well, no: let’s say, it’s the burden of grading. It isn’t always drudgery — sometimes I find some terrific student writing — and it wouldn’t necessarily be a burden if there were more time in the day to do it. But, eh, I ought not complain; teaching is still a pretty great job.

5. Search not for happiness, but for meaning.

6. Tidbits about typefaces.

7. Hollywood’s story biases, based on:

the ways in which its business model—which is entirely dependent upon big money and even bigger audiences—determines the risks it will and won’t take, the questions it will and won’t ask, and the answers it will and won’t provide.

8. Hagel vs. Hegel. I’ve been thinking of this sound-alike since Mr. Hagel’s been in the news recently. Plus, this link has my favorite Monty Python sketch ever: German vs. Greek philosophers in a football match.

9. Some research about best and worst learning methods.

10. Musician Beck published his new album as sheet music in a throw-back move. One thing this article lists is how publishing sheet music instead of a recording allows Beck’s fans to get more actively involved in his music. I wonder if there’s some way for people to do that with writing. Obviously, sheet music is a little like poetry, in that both can be performed, but I’m wondering if there are other ways to get readers more actively involved. Mad Libs, perhaps?