At its core, grading is a means of communication to provide formative feedback to students. Effective grading requires an understanding of how grading may function as a tool for learning, an acceptance that some grades will be based on subjective criteria, and a willingness to listen to and communicate with students. It is important to help students to focus on the learning process rather than on “getting the grade,” while at the same time acknowledging the importance that grades hold for students. And since GSIs are students themselves, it’s important to balance the requirements of effective grading with other workload and professional commitments.

Grading often challenges instructors. We want to be sure we are evaluating student work fairly, in the sense that our judgment is not subjective or inconsistent. Students deserve fairness and GSIs work hard to deliver it. The desire to give every student’s work careful consideration – as well as knowing the great importance that students often place on grades – can be stressful and sometimes add many extra hours of work for the instructor. However, as we will show in this section, it is possible to provide fair, formative feedback and grades to students while at the same time also protecting your own labor as a GSI.

To begin, it helps to consider grading as a process rather than just the assignment of number or letter grades to student work. As a process, grading may involve some or all of these activities:

  • Setting expectations with students through a grading policy
  • Designing assignments and exams that promote the course objectives
  • Establishing standards and criteria
  • Calibrating the application of a grading standard for consistency and fairness
  • Making decisions about effort and improvement
  • Deciding which comments would be the most useful in guiding each student’s learning
  • Returning assignments and helping students understand their grades

Throughout these sections, you will find specific suggestions about designing assignments, setting standards and policies, using grading rubrics, and writing comments on student work.

You might also find relevant information in other sections of this online guide, for example, Working with Student Writing (for working with student essays), Academic Misconduct (for addressing cheating and plagiarism), and Evaluating and Improving Your Teaching (for assessing and learning from your efforts).

In This Section

Before You Grade

Grading Rubrics

Tips on Grading Efficiently

Calculating Grades

Communicating with Students

Grading: Additional Resources