How teachers can save hours of time on essay grading

How teachers can save hours of time on essay grading

Essay grading is a daunting task, and for most teachers, it can take up a significant chunk of the day. But with online essay grading software becoming more advanced, Remboint director Dr Robert Williams says that teachers can potentially save hours of their time, leaving them free to focus on more individual areas of improvement.

With a background in research and computing, Williams has set out to produce an automated essay grading system with a worldwide application. The result is NAPLearn, which detects features and ‘events’ in student essays through Natural Language Processing (NLP) software. An ‘event’ consists of action, actor, location and time, and algorithms are then applied to assign scores for most of the NAPLAN writing criteria. Essays can be on any topic, as topic training is not needed.

“Schools and teachers can benefit from using NAPLearn with their students because teachers can set an essay question for all students in a class, and receive results for the entire class, within seconds of students’ assessment submissions,” Williams tells The Educator.

“The teachers are thus relieved from hours of grading and the provision of individual feedback.”

Once students receive feedback, they can immediately make improvements before resubmitting the essay. This process can be repeated as many times as necessary, and teachers have been impressed by the level of improvement the software has been able to create.

In addition to a numerical essay score, NAPLearn provides comprehensive visual and textual feedback on essay content, which allows teachers and parents to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the essay, and areas for improvement with the student.

NAPLearn assesses the NAPLAN grading criteria of  Audience, Ideas, Character and setting, Cohesion, Paragraph, Sentence Structure and Spelling.

Williams notes that the software has resulted in very real improvements to student essays, and has saved teachers up to 12 hours of marking within one week.

“One school had a poor student writer, who after several iterations on NAPLearn, surprised his teachers with the quality of his final version of his essay,” Williams says.

“Students with writing challenges have been quick to adopt NAPLearn, as they see it as a non-threatening environment to experiment with their writing. A client school of a partner company reported higher attendance at Western Australian OLNA preparation classes, which they attribute to the availability of instant essay grading. We also receive positive feedback from parents who have taken individual subscriptions for home use.”

With grading taken care of, Williams says that teachers can then focus on explaining NAPLearn’s results to the students.

He notes that teachers are seeing a decline in writing test results, and NAPLearn “helps address this by helping students to practice their essay writing and receive feedback anywhere, anytime.”

To find out more about NAPLearn and potential applications for your school, click here.