Is crowdsourcing a better choice for grading?

According to an article I stumbled across tonight, one Duke University professor thinks so. In a blog post, the professor, Dr.

According to an article I stumbled across tonight, one Duke University professor thinks so. In a blog post, the professor, Dr. Cathy Davidson, writes,

I loved returning to teaching last year after several years in administration . . . except for the grading. I can't think of a more meaningless, superficial, cynical way to evaluate learning than by assigning a grade. It turns learning (which should be a deep pleasure, setting up for a lifetime of curiosity) into a crass competition: how do I snag the highest grade for the least amount of work? how do I give the prof what she wants so I can get the A that I need for med school? That's the opposite of learning and curiosity, the opposite of everything I believe as a teacher, and is, quite frankly, a waste of my time and the students' time. There has to be a better way . . .

The "better way" involves allowing rotating pairs of students (who also lead classroom seminars) to evaluate whether student writing is acceptable or not. Dr. Davidson takes a very simple approach to the entire grading process:

Do all the work, you get an A. Don't need an A? Don't have time to do all the work? No problem. You can aim for and earn a B. There will be a chart. You do the assignment satisfactorily, you get the points.

The satisfactory piece is judged by those teams of students; it's similarly straight-forward.

Thumbs up, thumbs down. If not, any student who wishes can revise. If you revise, you get the credit. End of story. Or, if you are too busy and want to skip it, no problem. It just means you'll have fewer ticks on the chart and will probably get the lower grade. No whining.

It's an interesting approach, no doubt. Whether it has academic value remains to be seen, but it is abundantly clear that students operate in the real world much differently than they do in a college classroom. Their creative work is immediately evaluated by peers and they receive constant feedback about many aspects of their lives. In the same way, employers want to know if they met deadlines and created deliverables. An employer has little interest in whether the deliverable was "what they wanted to see;" rather, the deliverable needs to meet requirements.

I'm not 100% convinced yet; we'll need to check back on that blog at the end of the semester to see how things went.


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