Can computers take on grading essays — and do we teachers want that to happen?

computer scoring of essays, grading papersBecause I teach classes that focus on teaching media-writing fundamentals, I always have a stack of papers to grade.

Those papers are with me for those times that provide grading opportunities. Not just at my desk but at doctors’ appointments, on airline flights, during halftimes of televised sports events, during long car rides (if someone else is driving), etc.

If you are a teacher (especially if you are a teacher of writing), you know what I mean.

So I read with interest the USA Today story about progress on computer-graded essays.

I’m not capping my grading pen just yet.

The push for computer-scoring software is motivated by the need to score the essays that now are part of standardized tests, like the SAT.

Those interviewed for the story present differing views.

grading papers

It seems like I’m always grading papers. Faculty at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies advise grading in green, as students have an adverse response to papers graded in red.

A middle school teacher says he can assign more writing assignments by having computer help with grading. The computer provides feedback in three seconds — certainly much faster than my pace.

The director of MIT’s Writing Across the Curriculum program worries that computer grading could promote some of the kind of writing problems that Microsoft Word causes with its writing advice.

Having just completed grading the 15th set of papers for nor group of students, Grading all those papers has connected me with each student’s thinking and writing in a way that enables me to coach from week to week, assignment to assignment.

But if computer scoring could take over the mechanics, I’d have more time and energy for the bigger issues of evaluating student writing.

What do you think about computer grading of student writing?

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