Faculty scrutinizes practice of undergraduates grading peers

The Faculty Senate is looking into whether undergraduate students grading other undergraduates’ work is a concern at the university after an online survey generated mixed feelings from faculty members, a Faculty Senate official said.

Keith Whitworth, Faculty Senate secretary, said Robert Garnett Jr., associate professor in economics, sent him an e-mail expressing this concern. The concern was then brought to the Faculty Senate open forum at the October meeting, he said.

The open forum allowed for a five-minute discussion on the issue, Whitworth said.

According to the October minutes, Faculty Senate members ranked the issue as one of the top two most important out of the five issues discussed.

Whitworth said the survey consisted of open-ended and rating questions.

The results showed 57 percent of the faculty participants said they were not at all aware of the undergraduate grading practice, Whitworth said. Likewise, a total of 51 percent of the participants were either concerned or very concerned about the issue while 49 percent were either only somewhat concerned or not concerned at all, he said.

The survey was released through an online program called SurveyMonkey, a survey tool that allows users to create their own surveys.

Arthur Busbey, Faculty Senate chair-elect, said the purpose of the survey was to find out whether faculty members thought that undergraduates grading undergraduates was a concern.

There were many different opinions from the faculty, Busbey said. It’s obvious from the results that there needs to be further discussion on the matter, he said.

The Faculty Senate Executive Committee will decide which Faculty Senate committee will research the issue and come up with a solution, Busbey said. The Executive Committee is considering charging this issue to either the Academic Excellence Committee or the Faculty Governance Committee, he said.

Whitworth said it will be up to the charged committee to research other institutions to see if they have any undergraduate grading other undergraduate grading policies. As far as he knows, TCU does not have a university-wide policy regarding this matter, he said.

Robert Doran, Department of Mathematics chair, said in his department there is a standard for there to be multiple paper graders. Almost all classes have an upper-level undergraduate paper grader, he said.

Graders are essential to the department, Doran said, because professors wouldn’t have the time to grade all the papers in a timely manner.

For a grader to be assigned to a specific professor, the prospective graders have to have high grades in the classes they want to be graders, Doran said. The prospective graders also have to be responsible to get papers graded on time, he said.

Each prospective grader has to go through an interview process, Doran said. Graders are chosen by Victor Belfi, associate professor of mathematics.

The results of the survey will be reported at the next Faculty Senate meeting next semester.

Ashley Larson, a graduate education student with a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics, said she was a former paper grader for two years and said she doesn’t think having undergraduate graders is a problem with the right supervision.

It’s a problem if freshmen are grading other freshmen students’ work, Larson said, but as long as juniors and seniors taking the class are grading and the professors have written out strict guidelines with objective grading, it’s not a problem.