Although these are just two of the many important attributes a teacher must possess I would like to talk to you further about the skills of an effective teacher....
9. Have colleagues read the papers. This is an effective way of improving the grading for team-taught courses and for teachers teaching different sections of the same course. If you and a colleague differ greatly in scoring a question, reevaluate the response to the question. It is very important, of course, to tell your students about such dual grading arrangements. You could even improve the feedback to your students by having the different graders identify their comments by different colored inks.
4. Do not attempt to grade all exams in one sitting. As stated earlier in this article, a major disadvantage of essays is the time required to grade them. When you begin to tire of reading the responses, you naturally become too critical or too generous in your grading, which affects the reliability of the grades.
5. Grade only one question or topic at a time. Each question on an essay exam, or each essay question included in an objective test, should be graded separately. Reading an entire exam and then trying to assign a grade also affects the reliability of the grades. By grading exams by individual questions, you will be better able to concentrate on the quality of each individual response and how it compares to other students' responses.
3. List the points you believe should be discussed in each essay. Such a list can keep you from being "bluffed" by students who are exceptionally accomplished writers, or highly clever and verbal. Unprepared students often select one aspect of a question, or an aspect tangential to the question, and elaborate on that one point to the extent that a reader may become immersed in the writing style, overlooking the insufficiency of the answer. A list of expected points can assist you in assessing objectively the breadth and depth of the response. You can get help from your students in developing these criteria (Everett 1994). Ask them what they believe is important in the assignment, what they would expect to read if they were grading it.
Why then, according to WAC, do "most college classes not only neglect the language-based elements of learning, but actively avoid them?" Perhaps the reason is that teachers, as well as students, do not appreciate the advantages of the essay. Also, according to Everett (1994), many teachers avoid writing assignments because of the perceived difficulty and subjectivity in grading them.
Essays can test higher-level cognitive skills. Objective exams can also test higher-level skills, but on a more limited basis. For any test, the content and style of the questions should be determined by the course objectives. When objectives require students to apply knowledge, analyze data or situations, synthesize, or evaluate, the essay can be an effective test. Because essays address higher-level cognitive processes, you can individually direct students in their thought processes. However, when objectives ask students to describe, to list, or to recognize, the essay exam is probably not useful.
Students study more efficiently in preparing for an essay test. Research has shown that students generally spend less time on rote memorization of material when they study for an essay exam rather than a multiple-choice exam (e.g., Mayer 1975; Shavelson and Stern 1981). Instead, students tend to generalize and conceptualize the material, using facts as support material rather than as ends unto themselves. Students are al so more apt to retain concepts and generalizations than isolated facts and details.
Essays allow students to practice their writing. Many students can graduate from college without having had much practice in writing. Unfortunately, many of these students discover too late that their writing skill in the "real world"--whether it is in the form of a memo, a proposal, or a report--is the difference between success or failure in their profession.
But multiple-choice exams, in my opinion, are the least appropriate evaluation tools for aiding student learning, at any grade level. They do little to help teachers "teach for understanding" (Perkins 1993). I agree with the position of the Writing across the Curriculum (WAC) Association of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, as expressed in the May 1991 issue of Writing and Learning, that "writing is central to all disciplines" because an "active language element is crucial for any significant learning."
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Essays can individualize your instruction. Your feedback on an essay can help students form insights into the subject material, organizational skills, and writing skills. Your comments can also be an important motivator.
Essays provide valuable feedback to you. Sometimes objective test scores do not portray your students' learning. Essays, however, can reveal the depth and breadth of students' knowledge, as well as erroneous conclusions that are drawn.