Social Question

LostInParadise's avatar

What do you think of the idea of having computers grade student essays?

Asked by LostInParadise (30681points) September 30th, 2013

The programs have been around for over a year, but I just learned about it. My initial reaction is that this is madness. Maybe some day in the future, computers will be sophisticated enough to judge the content of an essay, but they are currently a long way off from being able to do so.

Here is an article critical of computerized essay grading. I wonder what the grader would think of an Ernest Hemingway short story. It would probably downgrade him for sentences that are too short. Maybe Faulkner would do better.

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

26 Answers

glacial's avatar

What a ridiculous idea! Does it write notes in the margins, too?

rojo's avatar

I don’t know, I suppose it is ok if you can use the computer to take the test for you.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Sure why not?

Let teachers use their computers to grade the tests.

Let students use their computers to take the test.

Everybody happy now?

ucme's avatar

Eliminating human error can’t be all bad.

drhat77's avatar

It could be used as an auditing system, that ferrets out if a student has received a suspiciously high grade based on the work submitted.

Pachy's avatar

Eliminating human error can’t be all bad.

True, @ucme, but in this case, eliminating human judgment would be. I’d rather be graded and passed or failed by a human than by an algorithm.

rojo's avatar

I would hate to have a computer grade any of my English papers; particularly the ones that attempt to answer the question “What did the author mean by…..”.

Judi's avatar

Can a computer detect when the written word stirs the soul?

glacial's avatar

@Judi You may be a little optimistic there… can’t recall the last time my soul was stirred by reading a student’s paper. :P

ucme's avatar

@Pachyderm_In_The_Room Hey, if computers are good enough to launch astronauts into space, but I get your point.

muppetish's avatar

I do not think this issue is a simple one. Turn It In has been widely used for years now, and, aside from shady copyright issues, it can be a useful tool for instructors with a lot to grade. However, it needs to be used responsibly. A teacher cannot run it through Turn It In and give it a pass. They still need to doublecheck that the computer gave it an accurate reading (because sometimes it will find plagiarism where there is none), but it can also cut back the time spent googling passages from suspicious papers. It also does not replace the teacher’s role in providing feedback on global writing issues.

In the particular case outlined in the link, I completely disagree with the usage of the program. They are specifically discussing using a computer to score standardized essays for exams such as the SAT/ACT. I think this is a terrible direction to head in. Those tests are already ridiculous. I am, admittedly, not a fan of standardized testing by any stretch of the imagination and particularly loathe in-class writing assignments. Using an online interface to score could put a significant number of students at a disadvantage.

How would you program the exam to not focus on grammar? To take content into account? And structure? Organization? How does it weigh one thesis over the other? Would you have to write in a cookie-cutter essay format? Would this reinforce the asinine five-paragraph essay? If it does weigh down on grammar, how will this impact ESL students, particularly International students?

These are problems that already exist outside the program. Using the computer to score just makes those issues more glaringly problematic for me. There is no single standard of writing. There is no one “right” way to compose an essay. Using a computer to reinforce a standard would not tackle the issues with standardized essay writing, but exacerbate them.

It just seems as though this specific program would make an already problematic area (standardized tests) even worse. And that’s completely suspending the necessity of student-teacher interaction for improving writing in a classroom setting.

Pachy's avatar

Oh yes, @ucme, I totally concur that computers do phenomenal things, and helping man make it to the moon is high on the list. I say “helping” because can you believe that in ‘69, the Apollo Guidance Computer used a real time operating system, which enabled astronauts to enter simple commands by typing in pairs of nouns and verbs, to control the spacecraft. It had approximately 64Kbyte of memory and operated at 0.043MHz, which was more basic than the electronics in modern toasters that have computer controlled stop/start/defrost buttons!

Still, I’ll take an old-fashioned English teacher with a mustache (female or male) grading my essays. ;-)

DWW25921's avatar

My experience is that a lot of teachers have interns for that. I mean, free labor! Anyway, kids today plagiarize so much that it’s really time consuming to actually check each paper. Teachers probably just skim and pass it.

muppetish's avatar

@DWW25921 While they certainly may be true of some instructors, it is not true for all. None of the English professors in my department skim papers. And, if you’re a masochist like my mentors and I, you read every stitch of writing twice just to make sure your initial scoring is completely accurate and justifiable. I am also not shy about failing my students for plagiarizing a paper. I am pretty good at catching it, though I have considered using Turn It In to help even further.

ucme's avatar

@Pachyderm_In_The_Room Ha, my English teacher was called William Shakespeare…true fact.

DWW25921's avatar

@muppetish That’s the difference between College and High School! I wasn’t prepared my first year because I just showed up and did the bare minimum. I mean, kids today really need to be better prepared. College professors generally don’t care if you show up but you better do ALL the work and it better be right! The mentality is opposite, I think.

tups's avatar

I think it’s absolutely horrible.

glacial's avatar

@muppetish I agree. Checking for plagiarism is the one thing that I think computers are useful for in the grading process (well… other than data entry and statistical analysis). Looking for recurring text is hard to do in the context of an essay – our humanity gets in the way of recognizing it. But even if a computer could manage to produce “grades that are not different” from what a human might assign, there’s no way a computer could look at the big picture, see paper with some distance, and advise the student on how to improve his or her writing, so they could create a better paper the next time. Very, very little of that has to do with grammar or spelling.

Of course, I say this without having used Turnitin either. I’d be curious to see how often it caught things I couldn’t.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

I just asked your question @Judi to Elbot the Robot.

Q. Can a computer detect when the written word stirs the soul?
A. “I get queasy when I see these computer parts that belong on the inside of a computer and not outside. Let’s please talk about something else.”
________

I asked it to _A.L.I.C.E..
A. “I think I can, don’t you? We were talking about Your rising sign. But I did not get that.”
________

I asked Cleverbot.
A. “What do you want to talk about?”

I asked again…
A. “I asked you first.”

I asked again…
A. “I guess so.”
________

Not sure we’re quite there yet folks.

Judi's avatar

I had a hard enough time pouring my heart and soul into a paper that is read once and trashed. There is no way I would. Have been able to do a quality job on a paper that no one even bothered to read!

glacial's avatar

@Judi Excellent point.

Dutchess_III's avatar

When I wrote essays I always thought about my teacher reading it. I wouldn’t put as much effort into it if a machine was reading it….yeah. What @Judi.

talljasperman's avatar

Then I should be able to have a computer write my essay.

Dutchess_III's avatar

(I had a chat with A.L.I.C.E. She’s a troll. And she’s dummer n a boxarox.)

ucme's avatar

A drummer in boxarox? Never heard of that band.

Answer this question

Login

or

Join

to answer.
Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
or
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther