5 Tips for Grading Free Response Questions in WebAssign

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Free response questions (or open response questions) are a valuable tool to help you understand your students’ critical thinking and problem-solving skills. However, they present a challenge for professors when it comes to grading, especially for large class sizes. While many questions in WebAssign are automatically graded, if you decide to incorporate free response questions in your assignments, apply these time-saving tips to grade them efficiently.


1. Create a Rubric

Craft a rubric as a guide for grading free response questions. This will help you grade student assignments more quickly and ensure your grading is consistent across all your students’ responses. Make sure your rubric includes direction on the length of their response as well as content, or what should be included in each answer, so students understand the expectations. Be sure to share the rubric with students beforehand so they know how their answers will be evaluated.


2. Use Show My Work for Students to Elaborate on Answers

What is your goal for using free response questions? If you’re looking to understand your students’ thought processes around a problem or activity, consider using Show My Work instead of a free response question to make grading easier. When you enable Show My Work in your question settings, students are presented an answer box along with their question where they can articulate their work using mathematical notation or by uploading a picture or document.

If you’d like to save time grading these responses, make Show My Work required so it automatically assigns a point value to your students for their submission. If you think a student’s answer is incomplete, you can always edit or remove their points after their submission. A rubric will also come in handy for Show My Work responses. Keep in mind that students will automatically get a score for Show My Work answers, but you can easily change it if it doesn’t meet the rubric criteria.

WebAssign Tip: Show My Work also allows you to respond to students’ answers with feedback. If you’d like to provide personalized feedback quickly, keep a running document of your responses. That way, you can easily copy and paste for similar errors.


3. Grade Responses in Bulk

Save time and grade all your students’ answers for an assignment at once. To do so, go into your assignment scores and choose Grade All. This will populate all the scores for your assignment and even allow you to hide your students’ names. Then, you’ll use your rubric and go down the list to assign a score to each response. You can always save it and come back later if you don’t have time to grade them all.


4. Ask a Teaching Assistant to Grade Work

If you’re lucky enough to have a TA this semester, grading free response questions in WebAssign is a great task for them! Align with your TA on the criteria for a suitable answer to a free response question and make sure they have access to your WebAssign course. Then, they can use the grade answers button to evaluate the responses.


5. Start Grading Before the Due Date

It may come as a surprise, but you can grade students’ free response answers before the assignment due date, especially if you’re using Show My Work. If you have some extra time and want to get a head start, you can begin grading open responses through the scores page as students are working on their assignment so you have less to grade after the due date.

You may also consider incentivizing students to submit their work early using bonus points in WebAssign to help you get ahead of grading.

Free response questions are a great resource to understand your students’ thinking, but they can be time-consuming to grade. Remember these tips to save you valuable time grading free response assignments in WebAssign.


Do you need more tips for grading in WebAssign? Watch our gradebook webinar to gain a better understanding of how to use the WebAssign ScoreView, analyze student progress and sync your WebAssign grades with your Learning Management System.