Why Having Outside Graders Can Help Your Teaching

As part of our DBQ-based curriculum, we wanted to provide grading services for partnering schools. We believe that part of cultivating thinking citizens through the teaching of historical thinking is providing teachers with the tools and time to do so. But giving teachers back valuable time with our grading services is not the only reason having outside graders is helpful. Today’s blog is more on the practical side of our blogs, but it is just as significant for realizing our mission of cultivating thinking citizens.

If Your Teacher Likes You, You Might Get A Better Grade : NPR Ed : NPR
Image from NPR (https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2015/02/22/387481854/if-your-teacher-likes-you-you-might-get-a-better-grade)

First: time. As a department head, I noticed that one of the biggest obstacles for getting students to complete robust tasks that required deep thinking, analysis, and writing, was the grading that resulted for the teacher. On average, for every DBQ I administered to my 130-150 students, I spent 12+ hours of my weekends grading. I wanted to ensure that my students received their grades with feedback in a timely manner so that the topic and skills were still fresh on their minds and so I could do any reteaching that appeared necessary based on the results. Getting this amount of time from all teachers, on top of their many other responsibilities, was difficult. Teachers have hundreds of daily responsibilities, and many of those have to wait till after the school day. So giving that time spent grading back to teachers while still allowing them to implement rigorous assessments was huge for creating more buy in.

Second: Data and Vertical Alignment. Cultivating thinking citizens is a marathon, not a sprint. To truly equip students, teachers must partner with teachers across grade levels. When this vertical collaboration happens, teachers can best meet the needs of students throughout their academic careers. Having access to uniform data assessing the same standards over those years is crucial for the development of deep thinking and analysis. When schools use our platform and grading services, they can do just that. 

Third: Bias. Of course, the issue of teacher bias when grading can be contentious. But there is plenty of research out there that reminds us that teacher bias when grading most often impacts students in minority populations (Just do an internet search of “teacher bias when grading” for dozens of research-based articles on this topic). But getting even more granular, all of us teachers have said “well they tried,” or “but they didn’t do the prework!” when we grade. Our grades for those individual students, then, reflect more than just the essay they’ve produced. Whether this is fair or not (we can save that debate for another time), it does not accurately reflect the student’s skills on that given task. This only hurts the vertical alignment previously mentioned and clouds the specific scaffolds that may be needed to further student growth. Teacher bias is inevitable, but when grading is done from an outsider to the classroom, unable to know the details of a particular student, then only the assessment at hand is being graded, nothing more. This removal of bias in the grading process ensures clarity and accuracy in the grading process, allowing for student needs to be met and for growth to occur.

We want to cultivate thinking citizens. Due to time constraints, the need for data and vertical alignment, and the potential for teacher bias when grading, having outside graders assess student work on a uniform rubric can truly elevate student work and empower them to be deep, historical thinkers. For this reason, at Thinking Nation, we have expert teacher-graders to provide clear and helpful feedback for both teachers and students on student writing. 

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