Automated Essay Scoring
While the technology will not replace a human reviewer anytime soon, it can be a great help for teachers, providing sanity checking and initial assessments. Training the scoring software may be the biggest hurdle.
Randall Stross, in this New York Times article, talks about automated essay-scoring engines, their accuracy (surprisingly good) and how they can assist, rather than replace teachers.
University of Delaware researcher studied teachers' use of on-line essay scoring software in the classroom with third-, fourth- and fifth-graders.
Results were mixed, with higher engagement from some students and clear frustration from others. Teachers agreed that the software showed students the writing and editing process in ways they hadn't grasped before, but some teachers weren't convinced that the computer-based evaluation would save them much time.
Their goal now is to identify what kind of training teachers and students need to make the most of this tool and how it can best help teachers teach.
While written by the authors of Paper Rater, an automated essay scoring web site, the author addresses the "Computers Can NOT Grade as Well as Humans" issue and how automated essay scoring fits into the grading mix – two sets of "eyes" are better than one.
Here's a chance to try a general purpose automated scoring system for free.
While the accuracy is below that of a human grader, it gives you an idea of how automated scoring systems work and includes immediate feedback on things like grammar, spelling, word choice, and plagiarism.
Many teachers have encouraged their students to check their work using this site before turning it in. Students get immediate, positive feedback. And teachers can concentrate on things like accuracy, reasoning, and clarity rather than spelling and grammar errors.
While we are not "there" yet, automated essay scoring shows promise for freeing up instructors time, both inside the classroom and after hours.
Having an assistant that can make a first pass assessment on writing assignments will save hours of time.
Automated systems alone can be gamed or tricked, ensuring that teachers will continue to be essential.