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?