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5 Time-Saving Strategies for Grading Science Labs

Everyone knows a science teacher who spends who spends nights and weekends grading science labs. Maybe this is you….

Providing meaningful feedback in a timely manner is essential to student learning.

Unfortunately, grading can become a burden that prevents us from enjoying time with friends and family. Teacher burnout is a huge problem in our society right now.

Grading science labs doesn’t have be time consuming!

Here’s 5 time-saving tips to grade science labs quickly and save your sanity.

1. LAB QUIZ

Sample 6th grade lab quiz

A lab quiz is a quick and easy way to assess the students on the knowledge they gained from the lab.

Often my lab quizzes are 5-10 questions that highlight the key learning goals from the lab.

I allow students to use their notes from the lab to answer the questions.

If you want to really save time digital is the way to go!

  1. Google Forms – Adding your questions to Google Forms allows students to receive instant feedback on questions that are multiple-choice. Open-ended responses require a little more time to grade.
    • Quick grading tip for open ended questions – when using Google Forms, create the open ended question in the beginning of the test to save scrolling as you grade!
  2. Formative – Formative is one of my favorite tools for online assessments. The free version allows for easy grading of open-ended questions. It’s a huge time saver!

2. PICK AND CHOOSE WHAT YOU GRADE

Rather than taking home a stack of lab reports and grading the ENTIRE LAB, determine the most important learning goal of the lab. Then grade only that.

Yep you heard me…. 🙂

It might sound crazy, but hear me out….

Here’s a few examples:

  • Are you focusing on graphing skills this week? Collect the lab assignment and assess students on the graph. Make it even easier on yourself and create a rubric for the graph. You’ll fly through the papers and have more time for specific, meaningful feedback.
  • Imagine students are doing a lab to investigation the effects of erosion. Rather than grading the entire lab, try assessing only the conclusion to determine if students have met the learning goal.

Pssst….. I NEVER tell my students ahead of time that I will only be grading a sample of their work! It keeps them honest!

grading-science-labs
I know you’re busy! Save this for later!

3. CER

Claim, evidence, and reasoning is another great way to assess student labs quickly.

Reading through the CER paragraph is a quick and easy way to get a snapshot of student learning.

The claim lets you quickly know if the student’s grasped the big idea.

The evidence gives you a quick look at the data points collected.

Best of all, the reasoning allows you to see if the students understand the science behind the driving question.

Sometimes when crunched for time, I collect only the graphic organizer. This saves me time by looking only at the big ideas, and it saves students’ time writing the paragraph.

If you’re reading to learn more about using CER to improve scientific writing and reasoning, let me send you my FREE 7 page guide to using claim, evidence, and reasoning like a pro!

4. CHUNK AND CHECK

Checkpoints during the lab are a great way to quickly assess student progress and avoid taking home stacks of papers at night.

How this works:

  1. Split up the lab activity into chunks with checkpoints.
  2. I have students draw lines on their lab papers to mark their stopping points.
  3. Each student or group needs to raise their hand for a quick check before proceeding to the next part.
  4. I like to stamp or initial each paper after I’ve looked it over and given any feedback.

Chunk and check has several advantages.

  • You can give student feedback as they go which helps the lab to become a more valuable learning experience.
  • The teacher knows what they are looking for at each checkpoint, so this makes it super quick to check.
  • You can take a minute to address any issues or misconceptions on the spot.
  • When it’s time to collect the lab work, most of it has been graded! YAY!

5. ROTATE FEEDBACK

Sometimes when I have a large project to grade, I rotate class due dates.

If you still feel like you want to grade the entire lab, this might cut down on the overwhelm.

You could use a variation of this to determine which classes you grade and provide more detailed, specific feedback.

Here’s some ideas:

  1. Period 1 – lab report is due on Monday. Period 2- due on Tuesday, etc. This helps you go from grading 150 at once to 30 per day.

2. Week 1 – Period 1 receives specific feedback for the lab. Week 2 – Period 2 receives specific feedback for the current lab.

Hopefully your grading “to-do” list gets smaller with these time-saving tips!

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