Thursday, August 26, 2010

Motivating Oneself to Get the Grading Done



There's a lot of research that goes into the relationship between grades and motivation. But what about the motivation to grade? It's something I think about because I honestly hate grading papers. If I were to rank the things I have to do as part of my job in the order from most liked to least liked, grading papers would be at the bottom of the list. It's pure drudgery for me.

It's not because the papers are "bad." (Although I do think my enthusiasm would be slightly higher if I knew that my students were all Jane Tompkins and Malcolm Gladwells in embryo.) It's not because the papers are boring. (On the contrary, I usually learn a few interesting and thought-provoking things I never knew before.) I do know that when the number of papers I have to grade increases, so does my dread in facing the task. But beyond that, I have no idea why I dislike it so much.

With that in mind, I'm wondering if anyone has any helpful strategies for motivating oneself to grade papers. I tend to procrastinate grading until the last possible minute and then pump myself full of caffeine and pull a late-night to get it done. I'm not particularly happy with that strategy. In an ideal world, I would grade the papers the instant I got them and turn them back so quickly my students would all sing praises to me about my remarkable initiative. But even though I fantasize about doing that every single time, I never actually go through with it in the end.

Am I the only one with this problem? Can you commiserate? If so, do you have any additional theories about why it feels like such a joyless task? And on a more practical level, what are your secrets for slogging through the grading? Any tips you have for making it easier on yourself?

2 comments:

Ms. Swindle said...

My mental trick is to head to the gym, get on the stationary cycle or elliptical (okay, it does make for messier handwriting) and grade a prescribed number of papers before I let myself stop exercising. Now don't you think you'd get pretty logical and efficient pretty fast? Two unpleasant tasks down with one whack.

Or--someone told me once to put your least desired activity as number #1 on your daily To Do list. Nothing else happens until number one is checked off.

Alyssa Rock said...

Not a bad idea. Thanks for the suggestion!

It actually reminds me of a principle I read about once called "throwing your hat over the fence." The idea is that if you know you need to go over to the other side of the fence (but you don't really want to go there), all you need to do is throw your hat over the fence. Then you'll have to cross over in order to retrieve your hat.

So, for example, if I need to clean my house, I invite someone over for dinner. That definitely motivates me to clean.

Is there a way to do that with grading? I find it helps me to promise my students I'll have the essays back to them by a certain time. And then I feel obligated to live up to that promise.