Monday, July 25, 2005

Time Spent Grading

As I mull over the various ways that I could structure my classes this fall (my schedule won't be finalized until a few days before classes start, so I'm still thinking in generalities), I'm trying to realistically determine how much time I should allocate to grading (and how to optimize my time).

Some of my crazy schemes are rather time-intensive. For example, when I give the first exam in my calculus class, I'm not going to hand back the graded papers. Instead I'm going to require each and every one of my 35 students to come to my office and talk to me about the exam. (I will need to practice ahead of time polite ways to ask, "What were you thinking!?" because I really do want to know where some of the bizarre things that students write on exams come from.) While they are there in my office, I'll also have them try to redo some of the problems, etc. No matter how you slice it, doing this with 35 students is going to take a long time -- far longer than writing copious comments. But I am certain that many students never read the comments and of the ones who read them, very few will really think about the comments. Some of them will hate this (I'm sure), but I'm hoping to avoid the phenomenon where unsuccessful students go into denial and then wait for the calculus fairy to solve their problems. This will also give me a chance to talk to the best students and try to steal them from engineering and convince them to be math majors.

While it would be nice to be able to inflict a lot of individual attention and meaningful feedback upon my students, the university isn't really "buying" that much of my time. My classes typically have 30-40 students in them; my official teaching load is 12 credit hours per semester (which comes out to 3 or 4 courses); I'm paid a smidge over $37,000 a year. (Note to self: learn marketable skills.) I figure that each credit hour of my schedule corresponds to 50-60 minutes of classroom time, 20-30 minutes of office hours, and 2 hours to be divided among preparing for class, grading, and assorted administrative/record-keeping tasks. I'm still trying to figure out the best way to divvy up that last block of time.