Like most teachers, I have a lot of students. I teach over 120 students every day. Not only do we already have a significant number of students to teach and manage, the numbers seem to be growing. This means heaps of grading and even more feedback for truly effective teaching. The problem is that we are just one person tasked with these individual workloads.

Let’s say a teacher that has one hundred students spends five minutes grading each final project; optimistically speaking, of course. That’s over ten hours of grading. That’s not accounting for any feedback along the way, and this estimation definitely doesn’t account for follow-up submissions, which can double the required time.

Promoting a More Comprehensive Learning Process Can Reduce Grading Time

Teach your students how to peer conference each other’s work a few times throughout the construction period before they submit it to you for final grading. This should be a class activity you all do together. They could even meet with two different peers. (Everybody participates if they have at least half of the assignment finished. )

The secret is to show them how to do it. This could set you up for the rest of the year because you can repeat the process with each major assignment. Here are some key elements of teaching peer review:

  1. Model one for the students the first time you try it. Pretend you are a student and demonstrate with another student or adult.
  2. Give them a graphic organizer of what they should be looking for in that check. Depending on how far along they are in the assignment, the list can grow for each check mark.
  3. Make sure they write down what the other needs to revise. Talking and nodding their head isn’t sufficient.
  4. Give them time to put in the revisions in class right after they are finished with the peer review. This is key.
  5. Let the students know that it is their time to pretend they are the teacher. They are to write down positive praise as well as how their partner can improve before final submission. A mini lesson on the benefits of respectful, constructive criticism is very helpful in modeling this new peer-review process.

This represents an easier and very powerful way to cut down on the grading process without skimping on the care and attention your students truly deserve. It’s simple and benefits the class in many ways:

  • It will cut down on your grading time because you will receive higher quality work at submission time.
  • It will create a community of learners in your classroom and students will gain trust in each other.
  • Students will understand the project expectations and rubric more thoroughly as they check each other’s work.
  • Students will become more independent learners.

 Do this a few times and you and your class will be hooked. It can work for any discipline and any grade level.

I’ve done peer conferencing with younger grades all the way up to seniors. It may seem like the students are doing the work for you, but really you have created independent learners that will be ready to turn in their best efforts, with the help of their peers.

 Your turn: Do you think this would work for your class? Why or why not?