March 2012
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Why Grading Sucks

It’s not just that the student provided solutions are unexpectedly “creative” and don’t fit the designed rubric. Nor that they make you wonder “Why am I even trying?”. Nor that they invoke thoughts such as “How did we ever make it as a species?” and “Dear God, I hope this kid never writes the code for my airplane or pacemaker!”. Nor that the responses drive one to despair and alcoholism. No, that’s not the worst part.

The worst part is that, according to some cogsci research that I picked up from the David Rock’s Google Tech Talk about his book Your Brain at Work, our brains have a very limited capacity for logical processing. So, when you have a rubric of a dozen items you’d like to see in each student solution, by the time that you’ve got to the 3rd submission you’ve executed at least 12 * 3 = 36 boolean decisions. Unless you’ve been training for exactly this activity (so well that you aren’t using the prefrontal cortex) you’ve worn out your hardware. Yet, there are still 30 to 70 solutions to grade!

It’s the limited capacity of the rational mind that makes grading so difficult.

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