Evaluating and grading grad students?

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praise_of_folly:
I am teaching my first ever grad class (a social science seminar with 15 students) in a new job and I am a little nervous about it. I am particularly struggling to come up with the best way to evaluate the students learning over the course of the semester. I would appreciate any advice on a graduated series of assessments that I could use with grad students to allow me to assess and give feedback to the students.

I am thinking of requiring:
--a prospectus and final term research paper (with the goal of presenting the papers at a spring conference)
--an in-class presentation of the students research projects (last two classes of the semester)
--one in-class presentation on the assigned/supplemental readings
--weekly reading reflections
--regular participation in class discussions

Does that sound like the right mix?

For the reading reflections, a colleague has her grad students write 2 page weekly summaries (due before class), which she comments on and grades. I can see where this would be helpful, but it seems like a lot of work. Is there any easier and perhaps better way to make sure that students are reading and grasping the materials that would require less time on my part?

Thanks for your suggestions!

POF

frogfactory:
Reading reflections seems a bit babying for grad students.  I know US universities aren't big on the sink or swim approach for undergrads, but surely grad students should be responsible for keeping up for its own sake?

burnie:
Unless these are first semester grad students I'm pretty sure they know they're supposed to read and will do it even without a reflection to write each week.  The profs I appreciated most in grad school were the ones who didn't treat us like low-achieving undergrads.

Like any class, I'd start with the learning objectives and then focus on assignments that measure achievement of those objectives.  Because it's grad level you can make the assignments / exams more difficult and expect higher quality than you would undergrads, but I'd avoid busy work as much as possible for your own sanity.

I think you can tell from class discussion who is reading and who isn't and save yourself some grading.

praise_of_folly:
Thanks frogfactory and burnie for your replies. What would you suggest in the way of assessment apart from having students lead a discussion of the readings, a write a final research paper and do an in-class presentation (at the end of the semester) of their research project? I am worried about leaving too much of the evaluation to the end of the semester.

Should I give them a take home mid-term exam based on the required readings? Or are there other types of assignments that I can build in over the course of the semester that will assess learning without feeling pedantic?

Thanks again for your suggestions.

POF

fearless_winnower:
Quote from: burnie on January 22, 2013, 12:53:13 PM

Unless these are first semester grad students I'm pretty sure they know they're supposed to read and will do it even without a reflection to write each week.  The profs I appreciated most in grad school were the ones who didn't treat us like low-achieving undergrads.

Like any class, I'd start with the learning objectives and then focus on assignments that measure achievement of those objectives.  Because it's grad level you can make the assignments / exams more difficult and expect higher quality than you would undergrads, but I'd avoid busy work as much as possible for your own sanity.

I think you can tell from class discussion who is reading and who isn't and save yourself some grading.


I had a lot of graduate classes with 'reading reflections' or 'discussion memos' for them, and I found them useful.  However, these memos were NEVER summary, always critique. They were also always shared with the whole class before discussion.  I and most of my grad-school cohorts nearly always read these before seminar, and I found that having a few different perspectives and sets of questions/critiques in mind before coming in was really helpful to having a good discussion.

These memos, in other words, weren't about checking to see if we were reading, but about (1) checking to see if we were thinking about the readings ahead of time and (2) creating context for the seminar discussion.  In my experience as a student, classes that were set up like this worked very well.

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