I'm grading a set of student papers. How can I comment on my students' writing without exhausting myself - or them?

Here are some quick tips excerpted from our faculty advice files—sensible and time-saving ideas from experienced university teachers

  • Write only as much as students will read. Make your most detailed comments on preliminary drafts so students can use them to improve.
  • Preview the set as a whole before starting to mark. Then if there are recurrent problems, you can save time and temper by commenting to the whole class.
  • Don't try to flag every error in language or style; few students understand the markings or even look at them. You can still make your point by drawing a box around a portion of text and marking that up.
  • Focus on identifying illogical organization or unclear wording...but don't neglect to praise logical organization and elegant wording.
  • Use a computer for your final note: you can revise easily, and you have a record of what you've said.
  • Save some good examples of student writing to show (with the writers' permission) to future classes.
  • Refer students to specialists as appropriate (e.g., writing instructors, academic counsellors). Then expect progress and comment on it.