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Fair, accurate, specific, and timely: FAST grading can be fast

End-to-end assessment series

Christine Lee
Christine Lee
Content Manager






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Assessments are a checkpoint for student learning. They can evaluate student progress—and are filled with data to support the educational journey. Grades can act as flags for intervention. Item analysis and data insights can highlight specific learning gaps. Most importantly, feedback can offer students scaffolding towards the next steps in their learning journeys.

Research has found that grades alone don’t offer insights to students. In fact, grades alone, presented without feedback, may discourage students. In 1958, Ellis Page conducted research on grades accompanied by and without feedback, as well as feedback alone. Page then measured the effects of comments on student scores in subsequent assessments. He discovered that students who received personalized comments did best, followed by standard comments accompanying grades. Each of these groups had significantly higher scores than those who had only received a grade (Page, 1958).

To foster continued learning, assessments ought to include individualized feedback—optimally, feedback that is FAST: fair, accurate, specific, and timely, according to John Hattie, a leading pedagogist. Such feedback, Hattie states, promotes learning.

FAST comments foster feedback loops that personalize learning and help students monitor their own progress. Feedback loops, too, help teachers understand where their students are in the educational journey. Doing so strengthens the student-educator relationship.

Dylan Wiliam states that effective feedback, bottom line, engenders trust between students and teachers. He states, “Where teachers create a culture in their classrooms where students want to – and know they can – improve, then feedback will be welcome, because feedback can help to direct the improvement” (Wiliam, 2021).

The above research establishes the following tenets of assessment pedagogy:

  • Personalized feedback promotes student learning,
  • Feedback should be fair, accurate, specific, and timely (FAST),
  • And effective feedback creates trust between students and teachers.

But what is the on-the-ground-reality?

Without help, FAST grading is ironically time-consuming.

Instructors are often confronted with the friction between time management and feedback; time spent evaluating and providing feedback can cut into instruction and instruction planning, let alone mental and personal wellbeing. And because time is finite and class enrollments can be large, individualized feedback is frequently sacrificed. This isn’t a choice that instructors like to make; who wouldn’t want to exercise best practices if at all possible?

EdTech tools, including assessment and grading software, can help.

Multiple-choice tests have been popular specifically for their time savings, but at the sacrifice of individualized feedback. In its wake has been increased popularity of multiple-choice exams; instructors prefer it because they are quick to grade and students prefer the format because it is a format for which it is easy to study. While multiple-choice is effective at measuring breadth of knowledge as well as recall knowledge, it is lacking in the ability to measure higher-order thinking and deep conceptual knowledge.

Enter assessment and grading software like Gradescope. Assessment tools help instructors design assessments and grade a variety of formats in addition to multiple-choice such as short answer and essay questions. Such tools also allow instructors to provide feedback efficiently and at scale. Assessment software has advanced to encompass best practices in pedagogy, embracing the concept of feedback as a tool to further student learning.

With Gradescope, feedback can now be FAST and fast, across multiple disciplines:

  • Fair (assessments can be graded name-blind and item analysis features can determine if grades and questions were fair)
  • Accurate (dynamic rubrics allow real-time adjustments)
  • Specific (feedback can be adjusted and personalized))
  • And Timely (students can receive feedback well before their next assessment)

All while saving instructors time.

Assessment, bolstered by feedback, is the bridge between teaching and learning, This is a pedagogical concept that can be challenging to enact in real life. For instructors, assessment and grading conflicts with instruction. Assessment software supports the bridge between teaching and learning by helping instructors uphold best practices without sacrificing time and wellbeing.