Thursday, October 13, 2005

&#%$*#! grading

Seems like everyone out there is struggling under a mound of grading, and I'm no exception. I have one set of grading that's just taking forEVER. Part of it is because apparently my students have issues with following directions. Which I don't understand at all. If a problem clearly says "implement X using Y", for instance, why is it that half of my students implemented X using Z? Or Q? Or, more maddeningly, if a problem says "Write a program to do X", why would a student turn something in that (a) was clearly never checked for proper syntax; (b) doesn't compile; (c) is buried in a WORD DOCUMENT??? And then they wonder why it takes over a week to get things back to them. Jeesh.

I think it's time to dig out The Rules, which I always forget to mention at the beginning of the term, but which I inevitably put into place after The Assignment That Takes Forever To Grade: If your program doesn't compile, I take off a standard deduction (usually 50%). I will take a quick look at the code, but I refuse to do all of the debugging. That may sound cruel, but I only do this in classes where the students should at least know how to debug their own code. And trust me, this is really something they need to learn to do on their own.

I will say that some students do try to make my job as easy as possible. They will actually write me a note explaining that the program doesn't compile, indicate their logic, and then pinpoint where they got lost. Unfortunately, these students are the exception and not the rule. I do want my students to learn, and I will try to help them do so, but it drives me nuts to see such indifference.

My fervent hope is that somebody will develop a grading robot so that I never have to deal with the pain and suffering of grading again. Wouldn't that be nice! Maybe I can make this an extra credit project for my students....hmmm....

5 comments:

Jill said...

Actually they're working on the grading robots. I can't wait...

Mike said...

If you're talking about grading student programs, there are some very good systems already out there. I'm taking a course for my MS and the instructor uses just such a program. Here'a link to a paper that discusses the Tester:

http://fie.engrng.pitt.edu/fie2003/papers/1179.pdf

Rudbeckia Hirta said...

Well, I can fill you in on some student logic, as I took Data Structures and Algorithms as a free elective.

This may sound harsh, but it was true: it wasn't worth my time to write programs that compiled and actually did what they were supposed to do.

The way my classes were graded, all the weekly assignments added up to something like 20% or 25% of the grade. The rest was exams -- I could get an A on a cs exam without studying just by showing up to class and paying attention. When the weekly assignment was mostly a theory assignment ("prove by induction that...." or "Describe a dataset that requires..."), I'd do it because it was quick and easy. But the "Implement X using Y" assignments were tedious and boring. It took fairly little effort, though, to throw together some crap (usually heavily cribbed from the textbook) and hand it in. By averaging somewhere around 50% of the credit on most of the assignments and acing the exams, I was able to maintain a pretty high average in the class while spending vanishingly small amounts of time outside of class.

Jane said...

Jill--grading robots?! My prayers have been answered!

Mike--thanks for the link; sounds interesting! Will have to check it out.

Rudbeckia--yes, as much as I hate to admit it, my students probably do use a cost-benefit analysis for my class. :) To clear my own good name, I usually don't assign the pure drudgery questions for homework; I like them to do more interesting stuff. What I've been grading (which I didn't want to mention on the front page) is actually a take-home exam. And, judging from the exam grades, your programming method is exactly what many of my students did. :(

Well, it's finally done, so that's all that matters!

Anonymous said...

My two intro programming classes don't have their midterms until next week. I can't wait. Oh boy oh boy, can you tell how excited I am? Ah well, it makes me feel better to read someone else's complaints about exactly the same things I complain about! Misery loves company and all that. -- cslady (cslady.blogspot.com)