Faculty members don’t get behind in their grading until after the semester gets started, however there are distinct measures you can take BEFORE the semester gets started that will help you avoid getting behind.
1. Make sure that you have a planner (either paper or digital) that shows all of your major commitments throughout the year. This would include travel to conferences, deadlines for large grant proposals for which you are applying, research trips, can’t-miss events (e.g., all-college convocation), etc. Once you have this reasonably complete, go on to the next tip.
2. Note: Be sure to include all events that are connected to your personal life, as well – or you won’t have one!
3. At the beginning of the term/semester, when you create your syllabus, block in grading time for the weeks when assignments (other than daily/weekly assignments) are due.
4. Note: I could repeat this one tip several more times to emphasize its importance. But, I will assume that because you are a professor (and you are reading this article) you are smart and will really recognize the importance of this imperative practice even if I don’t repeat it throughout the next 3 tips. If you do this one, the other tips shared below fall into place much more easily.
5. If you teach more than one class, as most faculty do, lay your course syllabi side by side to ensure that you are not scheduling major assignments, tests, and projects to be due in multiple classes the same week. Reconfigure your due dates so that, except for final exams/projects, assignment due dates are staggered throughout the semester and among your courses. Always pay attention to what else you have committed to (see Tip #1) when you are scheduling projects, big exams, etc.
6. Consider ways that students can turn in their assignments such that it makes grading easier for you. Specify that system in your syllabus so that everyone is ready to implement it. Ask other faculty what system they have set up so that students submit assignments in an orderly manner. For physical items, I always had folders clearly marked (for lower volume assignments) or containers (crates, boxes) for larger volume assignments).
7. Consider setting a policy for yourself about your grading in terms of the maximum length of time you will take between student submission and your returning of assignments. I recommend one week. The further behind you get, the worse it feels and the harder it is to stay on top of the grading. Set your own policy before the semester even gets started – and then commit to living up to it. You’ll be able to if you take the previous 4 tips into consideration.
All of these ideas will only work if you put them into practice, of course. And for scores of sets of Productivity Tips for Professors like these, you’re invited to join others around the globe who subscribe (free) to one of the Top Ten Productivity Tips series.