Grading end-of-the-year projects can take a long time. Especially when you have 200+ projects to grade AND give feedback on. So, today we’re going to talk about ways that you can save time while still being an effective teacher.

They are:

  1. Be clear on your expectations
  2. Use rubrics with clear thresholds and fewer levels
  3. Give points and feedback along the way

But first, let’s think about why we have end-of-year projects. What is the purpose? 

In my classes, the end-of-year project was one that incorporated all the skills that they should have learned in my class. It was meant to be somewhat of a capstone or culminating showpiece. 

Really cool projects also were great ways to recruit future students to my program.

As an administrator and coach, too often I see that teachers forget that their students have already shown competency for the standards. They put too much at stake in these projects. And assess more on behavior–like turning in the completed project on time–instead of skill.

Keep that idea in mind as we look at ways to simplify and save time.

Be Clear on Your Expectations When Grading End-of-Year Projects

The best way to be clear is to not only tell students what they are expected to do or create but show them examples. 

Showing students an example, and having them assess and give feedback will help them meet your expectations.

If you don’t currently have an example, make one yourself. It should show the “proficient” level. Make it accessible so students can reference it when needed.

One of the best things I ever did was take my bulletin board and display examples of the current project. At that time, it was a set of drawings. The example had each sheet with the necessary key items that I had highlighted with a marker.

Before I put up the example, I had students asking me all the time what they should be including on each sheet. After I hung up the example, they would compare their drawings. 

Most of the time, they were able to figure out what they were missing. This also allowed them to still work on projects when I wasn’t there and had a substitute.

For multi-day projects, have examples of checkpoints along the way. We’ll talk more about assessing and giving feedback on checkpoints later.

When Grading End-of-Year Projects, Use Rubrics with Clear Thresholds and Fewer Levels

Rubrics are meant to guide your students and yourself. They are meant to “provide consistency in evaluating student work”. They should speed up the process because you shouldn’t need to think about what score to give a project. The score has already been decided.

Each level should have a specific point value assigned to it if you are using points. Not a range. Example: 1 point instead of 3-5 points. Having a range for a  “proficient” mark makes the rubric pointless (no pun intended).

A suggestion would be to have the levels of “none,” “partial,” and “proficient.” If a student goes above and beyond, good for them. They will still fall into the “proficient” level.

In the wording of your rubric, make the expectations clear and non-negotiable.

Poor Example: “Design proposal is complete, containing all required parts.” 

While you have an assignment sheet with “all required parts” listed, you and your students will forget. Make it easy by being very clear.

Try this instead: “Design proposal has a problem statement, 3 researched ideas with citations, and a sketch of the proposed design.”

Save Time By Grading End-of-Year Projects As Students Complete Checkpoints

You are going to save the most time by grading and giving feedback to your students during class. Let’s be real, most of your students will look at their final grade for the project and not care about the details. 

Don’t even get me started about wasting your time in giving them comments on their project in your LMS.

You’re also not teaching them “how the real world works” by assigning a grade that will have a student go from passing to failing if not turned in on time. 

I’ll get off my soapbox now and explain what I mean.

If you are having students work for 10 class periods on a project, chunk their grades into smaller parts. For this example, we’re going to say the project is worth 50 points. 

To keep it simple, come up with 10 checkpoints that they need to reach to complete the project. Each checkpoint is worth 5 points.

Plan it out so that each of these steps or checkpoints can be completed in one class period. For every class period they get to a checkpoint, award the points. 

Give them feedback along the way as well so they have the opportunity to get full points. Enter those marks immediately. I like to carry around a tablet with the grade book already open.

If a student is absent for a day, they are able to work extra hard or do work at home to show you they have met the missing checkpoints. 

So what about the student who forgets the final project at home? They’ve worked every day. The student met nine of the ten checkpoints.

They get a 45 out of 50. Over those ten days, they accumulated 45 out of the 50 points. So that’s their score.

In this example, you’re teaching them how the “real world” works by showing them how to manage a project. Giving frequent feedback and making corrections before the entire project fails gives them small wins.

The best part, by the time the final is “due,” you’ve already graded the projects. No more staying late or working over the weekend trying to get everything graded before “grades” are due. 

In Summary

It’s better for you and your students to use systems to streamline the grading of end-of-year projects. You can do this by having clear expectations with examples, using simple and objective rubrics, and grading along the way.

These ideas do take prep work on the front-end but will save you hours of time when it comes to grading and entering grades.

Which strategy are you going to try first?

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