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Education Software

Essay Grading Software For Teachers 535

asjk writes "Software to help teachers with grading has been around for sometime. This is true even with respect to grading essays. A new tool, called Criteria, will look at grammar, usage, and even style and organization. It works by being trained by at least 450 essays scored by two professionals. The difference this time? Here is a snip from the article: '"There's a lot of skepticism," Dr. Spatola said. "The people opposed see it dehumanizing the student's papers, putting them through some sort of mechanical, computerized system like the multiple choice tests. That's really not the case, because we're not talking about eliminating the human element. We're making the process more efficient."'"
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Essay Grading Software For Teachers

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  • by mao che minh ( 611166 ) * on Saturday September 06, 2003 @10:22PM (#6890765) Journal
    I don't like it. Part of the learning experience, especially in the subjects of arts and philosophy, is being judged by another human being (or group of human beings) and having your work subject to their myriad of emotions and intellectual whims. A system like Criteria removes the very complex aspect of education: the human mind.

    Without computers we wouldn't be advancing in science, astronomy, genetics, or mathematics as rapidly as we have been in recent years. They are wonderful things. Hell, computers even help me keep a roof over my head. But I don't want Hal judging my kid's school papers.

  • by Vic ( 6867 ) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @10:23PM (#6890770) Homepage
    Sorry for the off-topic post.... but since Slashdot links to so many NYT articles, they should look into getting a partner=SLASHDOT thing (like Google does).
  • Whoa wait up (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tomstdenis ( 446163 ) < minus poet> on Saturday September 06, 2003 @10:25PM (#6890778) Homepage
    So when a student gets a C on an essay to whom does he/she seek redress?

    Teachers make mistakes and occasionally mark something negatively that was misread or misunderstood. In those cases the student can talk to the teacher and make a case.

    If a computer does the marking though what do they do?

  • What's next? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mao che minh ( 611166 ) * on Saturday September 06, 2003 @10:28PM (#6890793) Journal
    The fun they had []
  • by stere0 ( 526823 ) <slashdotmail@ste r e o .lu> on Saturday September 06, 2003 @10:38PM (#6890853) Homepage

    This thing compares the essays it is supposed to grade with already graded papers in its database. Couldn't this be done with something like POPFile []? It isn't only a spam/ham classifier and lets you create as many "buckets" as you want (e.g. work, family, spam, mailing lists and system monitoring).

    You could, in theory, create only buckets named (A...F), feed a large number of essays to it, make it "learn" how the essays are classified using statistics, and let it grade essays for you after that.

    Is it possible to find masses of graded essays online? This would be a fun thing to try :).

  • Scary: (Score:4, Interesting)

    by afidel ( 530433 ) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @10:49PM (#6890908)
    This sounds a lot like This [] story.

    Actually this sounds a lot like Gramatica. Gramatica was the grammer checker that was an optional component with WordPerfect for DOS and later a standard component with the Windows version. It was written by a team comprised of both computer scientists and professors of English. One of the interesting features was the scoring feature which would give you a rough estimate of the grade level of your writing. It would also give you statistics and compare them to a selection of famous works.
  • by bob_calder ( 673103 ) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @11:30PM (#6891086) Homepage Journal
    A typical middle or high school english teacher has six classes a day, each having over forty students. If the students have to learn to write, each of them should write a couple of pages of prose a week and some poor sod has to read it. The more they write, the better they get at writing, so it is generally a good idea, but really hard work to read it all.

    There will generally be two papers in each class that are remotely readable. The rest will be a LOT OF WORK to grade. If a bot could do some of the work, it would be welcome.

    Late at night your eyeballs feel like they're on fire and you are convinced that the entire system should be put out of its misery. The thought that a student actually has an IDEA seems fantastic.

    PLEASE don't be a troll and tell me that YOUR teacher never appreciated your ideas.
  • by dolo666 ( 195584 ) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @11:40PM (#6891128) Journal
    I tend to disagree. By eliminating the time it takes to grade papers, professors have many more hours to spend with students *doing* the humanizing. I'm a teacher, and any teacher worth their salt will know if the machine is wrong, because they'll know their students, and what each one deserves (without even reading the damn papers they at least know what to expect, so if the machine is off, they will know). Now for higher level papers, such as university level papers, the machines should be only used as a guide, like comment moderation at slashdot. Not all the moderation is in fact, correct, and I'm sure that profs will also know that the same is true with these devices.
  • Useless.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Moridineas ( 213502 ) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @11:42PM (#6891135) Journal
    As I'm sure anyone who has ever written an essay (especially highschool level or above) knows, there is no point to the essay per se. The essay is not an end to itself, and the grade ultimately is not an end either.

    At my university, Duke, our new curriculum has specially designated writing classes. Every student needs to take three over their four years. A biology lab can be a writing class. So can an English class, history, religion, etc. All W classes have certain requirements--their must be certain amount of writing and more importantly REVISION.

    I was fortunate enough to take a class from the author and profesor Reynolds Price. We had a final essay for the class. Along with my grade (not an A ;) I received a page and a half of handwritten comments, as well as inline comments about points in the middle of the essay. Twenty years from now, I doubt I will remember a great deal of his course, but the comments that he left me have already changed my writing style, and, I hope, improved it. (note: slashdot style not indicative of real style, hehe)

    A computer will NEVER be able to do this. Nor will a computer (at least in the foreseeable future) be able to comment on my theories about Milton's Paradise Lost.
  • As a student... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Marsmeg ( 690403 ) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @11:56PM (#6891199)
    As a high school student, I find this amusing. In the first place, of all of the English teachers in my school only one would be able to figure out how to turn on the computer to use the software. Most English teachers don't pursue computer science as lovingly as they should. If this were to grade science experiment write-ups, then I'd worry, because science teachers wouldn't scream if they wre told to use a computer. When it comes to how much I, a student, would feel if my essays were graded by a machine, let's just say I'd make fun of the whole thing by inserting sentences like "This is a really stupid assignment." or "I wish I were in tech class." But since I enjoy the pursuit of the written art so much I would also be upset that an understanding human being would not be there to see why I might break grammar usage on purpose. I guess that I would end up having to post more essays online where no one who reads them really cares enough to critique the thing. I want my English teacher, thank you very much.
  • by linzeal ( 197905 ) on Sunday September 07, 2003 @01:05AM (#6891400) Homepage Journal
    Enough of your senseless bothering about what you concieve as the reasonings (yet failings) behind testing!

    In what manner HanzoSan, do you think SAT tests are flawed? I have never met anyone who scored a 1400+ who was greatly unobservant, had stagnant repetitive thought, or was largely an intellectual boor; however I can recall many people who scored much lower who were so.
    {note to self...I should pay attention to avoid being too credulous of an anecdotal supposition when I am prescient of it's certain criticism, oh well}

  • Sausage (Score:3, Interesting)

    by quintessencesluglord ( 652360 ) on Sunday September 07, 2003 @02:11AM (#6891578)
    Something hinted at by the story and some of the comments but really bears being pendantic: too few teachers. It is lucridous to expect a teacher to go over 150 essays as it is for me to expect getting a reasonable education when I am 1 of 150 faces trying to gleen something more than an "A" from a class. The software is attempting to address this imbalance, but ultimately it will make the level of education worse: it can grade a paper, it can't offer insights on how to improve. And it will give administrators a reason to pile 50 more into a class, which will in turn lead to GradeStar MkII and onward into a vicious circle. And yeah, the software is just a tool, but like so many tools, that's not how it will be utilized. It's a cop-out, nothing more.
  • Utter Bullshit (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Stevyn ( 691306 ) on Sunday September 07, 2003 @03:04AM (#6891725)
    Are we this lazy as a country that we don't even want to go through the process of teaching? An essay that is gramatical error free and uses phrases like "in summary" and "because" doesn't mean anything if the student can not comunicate their feelings into a paper. High school is the time where students must develop the skill of relating their ideas and feelings on paper for a human to read. If they were to just write so a program would scan if for "errors" then why would they ever bother to take a risk and write something meaningful?

    Humans have been putting too much responsibility in the hands of computers. But to make teaching, and especially writing for god sakes, an objective process shows nothing but our society's indifference for educating and improving ourselves.

    For those who see objectivity as something positive because it levels the playing field, then they never had a teacher that would take a chance and go past their duty to help a student. This is something no program will ever be able to do.

    Computers are objective, people are not. That is what makes us different and inherently better.
  • Re:Interesting.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by clifyt ( 11768 ) on Sunday September 07, 2003 @09:50AM (#6892486)
    Yeah -- ya only got a 78% :-)

    Its *NOT* a content checker...its a writting checker. We don't get into keyword analysis like some folks have.

    There is one rating system out there that is based almost entirely on keywords, but they don't tell you that. We've successfully gamed it with an essay like "Queen Elizebeth sailed 1492 ships in the year 3 B.C. to Columbus Ohio yadda yadda yadda" -- actually my collegue referenced in the article above wrote a much longer and more elegant bullshit ( he says non-good faith...) essay on this subject and received the highest points possible.

    Bullshit detectors are at the human level right now. Considering ya got a 78%, it says that your writting style ain't half bad and gave ya a little more for creativity :-) To write something like that with it reaching to the 90-100 range would mean ya were in a much higher percentile than incoming students choosen to write an impromptu essay (which this particular model was built on). Hopefully if you keep writting gibberish and improving on it, your standard writting style too would improve.


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