Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Life as a TA: Or, Grading Stinks

This semester I am the TA for my advisor's class. Now that I have gotten the important things like breakfast figured out, I have moved on to other things like writing homework, grading, and holding office hours.

The first homework assignment for the class was actually a hands-on exercise in the machine shop. I am pretty experienced in the machine shop, so the shop manager and I together led two sections of students through machining, bending, and injection molding. Some students had never been in a machine shop before, and some students could have run the lab themselves. It was really interesting to observe the wide range of abilities - because I am so hands-on, I am always amused by people who don't have the mechanical knack. It takes all kinds of engineers in the world, and some should just stay away from spinning machinery...

The second homework is a standard problem set that I put together. It was the very first time I had ever written a problem, and designed a homework set. I think I did pretty well, but we shall hold the applause until I see how the students do... I was surprised at how hard it was to come up with a good problem. You would think that starting with the answer, it would be easy to work backwards, but actually it takes a lot of thought to write a clear and concise problem that tests specific technical concepts.

I have yet to hold office hours (which are scheduled the day before that second homework is due).

But I have graded the first homework set. All I can say is, WOW. What a huge time commitment. The class has about 45 students in it, which is large for a graduate class. I am sure the first time is the hardest (I set up a spreadsheet to track grades, had to figure out how to assign grades on the online class website, etc.), but STILL. It took me about 10-15 minutes to grade each assignment (typically about 4-8 pages long, so I think that's pretty quick). That's TEN HOURS of grading papers. Ack! 

I don't know if it was harder because it was a hands-on experiment report (so lots of variation between papers) and it would be easier with a standard problem set (the please-do-numbers-1-through-10 at the end of the chapter variety). I guess we'll find out next week, when the more standard homework #2 is due.

I did it over three nights. I have no idea how I'm going to manage this without the Olympics.

1 comment:

  1. "...and some should just say away from spinning machinery..."