Staying Motivated While You Grade Final Papers and Exams

Grading one miserable paper after another is a reality for many college instructors. Students often dedicate their attention to their smartphones and the latest drama on Facebook and ignore lectures (even interactive ones) and group activities. As a result, their work suffers. How can you stay motivated, engaged, and provide impactful feedback to your students? It is not easy, but here are four tips to help keep you going.

Do Not Grade At Home: As an instructor, you likely take grading home weekly. Do not do it with final grades, unless you have an office space dedicated to your college work. Grade at a coffee shop, where you can enjoy tea or a fancy coffee drink that someone else crafts. You may also grade in the office, where the coffee is free (hopefully). This way you can come home with a clean slate and focus on your well-deserved vacation.

Take Break Before You Grade: Finals might have been this evening, graded samples might be due in week, and you might have 100 papers to grade, but take a break. Go for a walk, take a day at the spa, or watch a marathon of your favorite Dr. Who doctor (Mine is David Tennate), prior to grading. Give your mind a break. If you have worked hard, graded a million drafts in the last few weeks, and met with four dozen students who just realized they need help, you need a break. Give it to yourself.

Provide Meaningful Feedback: Always strive to provide meaningful feedback (and pretend your students read it). Ensure your feedback is focused on their paper, provides specific examples, and resources for improvement (Learning House, 2012). Don’t forget to tie it back to continued success in college and/or your course. You may be surprised. One of your students may actually use the resources you provide.

Actually Send the Feedback: As a student, I know that I never received feedback regarding my final papers, assignments, and exams. Email them the feedback, if your college policy allows. This way the students can use the feedback in future courses and you know your hard work met its purpose and assisted students in reaching their full potential.

Being an instructor is not easy. Students come to the college classroom with many different motivations, skill levels, and varying levels of willingness to work. Instructors are asked to do magic most semesters and, sometimes, the magic is not good enough to ensure everyone passes. I hope these tips help you stay motivated during the most stressful time of the season for instructors and students. Good luck on grading and enjoy your break.

Reference: Learning House, Inc. (2012). Foundations in online delivery: Assignment Feedback [PDF]. Retrieved from

Photo form Flickr used under the Creative Commons License 


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