Writing in Larger Classes
Teaching a larger class has many demands, and you cannot give the careful attention to writing that you could in a smaller class. Be confident that any writing that advances the learning objectives of the class is a valuable addition for students. Here are suggestions for handling writing assignments in large classes.
Structuring/designing the course assignments
Consider the range of assignments that incorporate writing:
- One page responses to specific questions about the reading
- Short student email responses to reading before class: half of the class (or other fraction) does this each week/each class responses due the morning before the afternoon class; professor reviews and brings them to class
- Fifteen minute in-class writing, announced ahead, or not
- Short (100 word) responses or encyclopedia entries (helps students practice concise thinking and writing)
- Written exams:
Give questions in advance and emphasize the importance of students' planning a coherent response.
- Short papers/lab reports
- Longer research papers/lab reports (sometimes with sections due across the semester)
Managing work flow
Be realistic about how much you can handle.
- Stagger the due dates so that only a subset of all papers is due at one time (possible ways: by alphabet, by class year, by student preference, randomly).
- Give fewer assignments.
- Keep assignments short. Less can be more if a focused, short assignment clearly advances a learning objective of the course.
- Allow (or require) students to work in groups.
- If you allow revision, make it voluntary rather than required, or allow revision on only some assignments.
- Use check/plus grading for some assignments.
Communicating with students
- Help students to focus on specific writing goals and to be more self-aware writers.
- Make students aware of the criteria by which they will be evaluated.
- Set reasonable student expectations about how much assessment you can provide.
Improving efficiency in reading/commenting on/grading student writing
Based on your goals for the assignment, construct a template for typed, general comments before grading the submissions or after quickly reading through some papers before grading; common issues can be addressed in common language.
- Mark everything on the first page or two and then summarize the problems in the paper as a whole at the end.
- Use editing symbols.
- Put only brief marginal notes throughout; use the marginal notes as reminders for issues to address in a typed, summary response to the entire paper.
- Focus on targeted concerns, e.g., strong thesis, effective use of evidence, ….
- To help maintain consistent grading, keep a rubric or list of questions in front of you as you grade (can circle or check-mark specific items for each student if that seems helpful).
- Go paperless on early and/or on final drafts.