How to Use Collaborative Grading

Lora McKillop
Lora McKillop
Elementary school principal; M.A. in Executive Leadership, Gardner-Webb University, NC
Group of educators working at a table together in the library.

What is Collaborative Grading?

Collaborative grading is the process of a group of educators working to grade assignments as a group or individually in a group setting and then discussing their ideas on the students’ work. Collaborative grading can also be when students use a set of learning goals to assess their own work and then conference with the teacher or to peer evaluate their work.

What are the Benefits of Collaborative Grading?

There are several benefits of collaborative grading. When teachers work together to grade assignments or share their thoughts on student work, it provides the opportunity for different perspectives and opens up conversation. Not only is this beneficial for students, it is very much an opportunity for an organic and authentic professional development experience…where teachers can learn from each other.

For the teacher and student collaborative grading experience, it gives the student a chance to discuss their strengths and weaknesses with the teacher and in turn provides the teacher with insight into where the student is coming from. This often is very productive because it provides the teacher with more detailed information regarding where the learning breaks down for the student. Then the teacher and student can come up with a plan to address student weaknesses and give the teacher a chance to praise student strengths.

As far as students working together to discuss their work, this is a chance for students to become comfortable sharing their work and thinking with their peers. The teacher can be a mediator if needed, and while you would not always want to use an actual grade in the grade book of a peer “graded” assignment, it provides students with the opportunity to discuss their work with their peers. This is an excellent way for students to practice their soft skills.

Strategies for Using Collaborative Grading

The most effective strategy that we have found for collaborative grading is in the area of writing. We have done it with the younger grade levels, but it has been most beneficial in grades three and four to help us prepare for state testing. Using a writing rubric can be subjective, but if you meet as a group with several teachers, administrators, and instructional coaches who all read the same piece of writing, you can really calibrate what a piece of writing looks like for a score of 1, 2, 3, and 4. We use the SC state rubric as our scoring guidelines and then discuss why we think what we do and then come to a consensus at each level.

We have taken this rubric and developed it into a more student friendly Text Dependent Analysis Stoplight Rubric. This helps the students to understand the expectations more clearly and allows them to mark where they feel they are on the learning continuum of being independent, just needing a little support, or are really stuck. Using this tool also helps them to have guidance when discussing their work with their teacher or a peer.

Another great strategy is for teachers to put up student writing samples, and as a class, they can discuss strengths and weaknesses with their students. This also helps set the standard for what a 1, 2, 3, and 4 looks like for their classroom expectations.

Collaborative grading can be used in other subjects, especially for group projects. Students should be given a list of requirements and expectations before they get started. Then, during each step of working on the project students can discuss where they think their work compares to what is expected. The group can turn in the grade they believe they have earned when they turn in their project and the teacher can then grade it and have a discussion with the group regarding any discrepancies.

Collaborative grading is a beautiful thing and has so many benefits for students and teachers. If you haven’t tried it in your school or classroom yet, don’t be afraid to! Be the leader in your building to branch out and suggest giving it a shot. You have to start somewhere and once you do, you can make changes to continue to improve. Your students will learn so much about themselves as learners and you will learn a lot about yourself as a teacher.

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