#TechTipThursday: March and midterm grades

As the old adage suggests, March rolled into 2019 like a lion. Wintry weather can complicate plans at any number of levels, certainly, but it does not factor into our ability to celebrate academic success. Within the higher education environment, March celebrates the mid-point of a semester: midterm assessments of learning (e.g., exams, papers, projects) often followed immediately by spring break. What better time than March to offer learners comprehensive feedback about their progress?

Providing clear and timely feedback is incumbent upon all of us, regardless of our role in the learning environment. Every interaction is an opportunity and integrating that mindset in our lives can transition a semi-regular and time-intensive undertaking to daily habit. When we are in the habit of providing feedback to our learners, for example, the laborious process of reporting midterm grades becomes simpler.

Leveraging the power of Canvas, teaching faculty and staff at SUNY Geneseo can export a Gradebook ready for import by KnightWeb. We developed a self-help page, which details these steps and accompanying screenshots, available directly through this link. Your Canvas support team is also happy to assist you with this process.

You can also reach us by emailing canvas@geneseo.edu or, weekdays between 8AM and 4PM, you can call the Canvas Hotline at 585.245.6000.

One Reply to “#TechTipThursday: March and midterm grades”

  1. Timely feedback is my major area of improvement as a teacher. My current turn around time is 2 weeks but I’d like to cut that down to no more than 10 days (regular semester). There’s a couple of reasons why I think this is important and ways I’ve made it happen:

    1. I am not equal to my students. I need to do better than them. So if I want them to believe that working ahead matters, then I need to work ahead. If I convince myself that “oh well they don’t read it and blah blah blah” then of course, why would I work to give timely feedback?
    2. Students with learning issues, such as non-sighted students, are often working with severe disadvantages; when they’re podcasting, for example, they re-print a new braille script every time they make even minor changes. That means if they don’t get feedback in time to incorporate it into a new draft, they can’t really use it at all.
    3. It makes me able to engage with my students proactively and non-defensively when I know that grades are posted and we are clear on where we all stand with one another. When I know that I am behind on grading I tend to go on the defensive.
    4. I, in a sense, rhetorically construct my students in my grading practices. I’m not grading them as they actually are; I also make them into who they are in the way that I grade. When I return timely, thoughtful feedback then I invite them to become timely, thoughtful people. When I return late, half-assed feedback well…then…

    Of course easier said than done. Some strategies that I use to keep myself motivated and accountable:

    1. I will just flat out say sometimes “I want to keep myself accountable to returning grades on time so I’m telling you right now that if you don’t have grades in Canvas by XYZ date, everyone gets As.” Then I do my grading. I might do it the night before the deadline, but that’s still on time.
    2. I let them keep submitting work “late” until I finish grading. This makes sense to me. If they’re going to submit papers on March 15 then why penalize them if I’m not going to return grades on March 18? So I tell them, “get it in before I finish grading and there’s no issue.” They don’t love it because its ambiguous but in some ways it’s the fairest policy I can think of. Also it vibes with how I think about deadlines in my life; I’ll email someone and say “oh I can’t do it by XYZ can I have another week?” And they usually say “no. I really have to get this done this weekend.” Or, more likely, “yeah I wasn’t going to read them until Thursday anyway.”
    3. Separate grading from feedback. A lot of the reason I delay my grades is because it’s the part of my job I hate the most. I hate turning them into numbers; I hate splitting hairs about what counts as X and what counts as Y; I hate giving students who clearly didn’t put in the effort a passing grade but I’m also terrified to give someone less than a passing grade because what if what I’m calling “lack of effort” is some kind of manifestation of a seriously deep issue…all of this goes around and around in my mind. So I separate the tasks: I ask for drafts for feedback-only. About 50% of them turn in those drafts. The remaining 50% I can at least reach out and say, “this is not a good idea.” Then when it’s time to grade, I just apply a rubric and I click, click, click, done. I can anonymize grading at that point via Canvas and grade with accuracy and efficiency knowing that I have already reviewed at least two, sometimes three or four, drafts. Students appreciate this because they are getting feedback in advance of the grading, rather than after the assignment has been submitted. Also it avoids the whole “they don’t read my feedback” resentment issue that a lot of us use as a reason not to do thorough evaluations.

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