Thursday, December 10, 2009

Grading Research Papers

I'm in the midst of grading nearly 80 research papers of students in my two Religion 101 classes. The assignment is to write a 4-6 page paper on a topic in religion that interests the student. There is a huge variety of topics. Some examples: "The Great Schism of 1054," "Jim Jones-- The People's Temple," "Buddhist Symbolism," and "Scientology."

Reading and grading so many papers has its challenges. There is a variation in the quality of these papers. Some are a pleasure to read and others are difficult to get through (usually due to poor grammar and syntax). At times, I've humorously refered to this task as "Research Paper Grading Hell." When I finish, I will have read approximately 500 pages of papers-- equivalent to a good length novel.

What I try to bring to this task is fairness, curiosity and energy. I want to give each paper a fair reading and to appreciate the good qualities and wisdom in each. I'm also trying bring a measure of mindfulness as I read these papers.

Can grading research papers have a spiritual dimension? I believe it can. First, I am learning new things about the world's religions. A teacher is, first and foremost, a learner. Secondly, I am engaged in important work. Even though grading is one of my least favorite teaching tasks, I know it is important to the student and, therefore, give it my best. That being said, I'll be glad when I'm finished!

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