How to Crowdsource Grading

Filed by Cathy Davidson


8.24.09 | A little over three weeks ago, as I was about to leave the country for a week’s vacation sans Internet, I posted a blog on the new HASTAC site that I assumed would be an uncontroversial placeholder in my absence.  I posted an update of a seminar I taught last spring, “This Is Your Brain on the Internet,” a course on new theories of cognition for a digital age.  I made some modest revisions in the course that focuses on a new model of mind for the participatory learning, interaction, and collaboration that is part of digital thinking, including an experiment I plan to conduct that revises conventional models of grading.  I came up with an experiment in grading—a point system combined with peer evaluation—that would highlight, in its methods, the mission of the course which is to prepare students for the interactive online forms of participation, feedback, evaluation, and peer review that are part of digital citizenship. The was blog was titled “How To Crowdsource Grading.”

I had no idea what kinds of response this quiet blog would engender while I was in a WiFi-free zone.  I was suddenly hit by an avalanche of opinion. The story was picked up by the Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Education, the Raleigh News and Observer, and the Duke University Chronicle and would have gone much further had I been in the country to field interviews. The responses have been varied, some extremely helpful, some radically, and even rudely, dismissive. Surely, some insisted, if I am doing such an experiment, I am trying to get out of work (a naïve idea of pedagogical experimentation if ever there was one).  If the prof isn’t the flake, others proclaimed, then surely students will take the course to get an easy A (will they ever be surprised!). 

But no matter. The rich body of internet chatter on this issue is now Assignment #1 in “This Is Your Brain on the Internet.” I can think of no better way to teach students about the power of online evaluation and contribution than by having them read—and respond to—the range of digital opinions about their course. I promise to report back on the results when this experiment is over. 



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