I am teaching a large Humanities class (150+ students) in the US this semester and am in the process of grading midterm essays. This is my first time teaching a class this large and I'm not sure how to handle feedback.

With smaller classes, I always liked to give students very detailed feedback, so that they could understand why they got the grade they got and so that they could improve their writing in the future. This is very time consuming and therefore unpractical with that many students. I also do not want to burden the TA helping me grade either.

I'm wondering what the best course of action is? Should I just give them their grades and tell them to come to office hours if they want to have more detailed feedback ?

3 Answers 3


Here are some options/ideas to consider:

  • Giving just a grade and asking to come to office hours is certainly defensible. I've read that most students don't read extensive feedback.
  • Commit to giving a grade and very short feedback.
  • Create a written rubric with check-off categories for various scoring criteria. Require students to staple this as a cover sheet on their submissions. Grade by checking appropriate boxes.
  • If you have an online learning management system, it may support rubric grading as above, so you can do the check-off grading without additional paper. (e.g., I do this on Blackboard for computer programming assignments).
  • Set a budget as far as time you can legitimately devote to this task. Keep written records (e.g., spreadsheet) of how much actual time is spent on this overall task. Have the TA track time as well. If time spent is over budget, iterate and cut/modify/streamline something.
  • 1
    The first bulleted point is potentially just as bad as spending time writing feedback, if too many people show up.
    – aeismail
    Commented May 17, 2018 at 3:02
  • I did your option 3 using a spreadsheet template - could make any pre-written point a positive or negative, points were awarded for depth, argument, clarity, referencing etc Still had to read each paper though....
    – Solar Mike
    Commented May 17, 2018 at 5:49
  • 5
    @aeismail But at least you know that it really benefits the student, rather than writing feedback that may never be read.
    – user9646
    Commented May 17, 2018 at 13:38

When grading assignments for large classes it is common for large groups of students to make the same mistakes. Therefore during the next class period you can give some general feedback to the whole just.

You simply point out the common mistakes that most made and often the majority of the class is happy with this.

It is also reasonable to discuss potential answers and or share how you would address the essay questions. If anybody is still dissatisfied they can come to your office


There are apps that let you record feedback. My students loved listening to my thoughts as I read their papers. It was extremely helpful and less time consuming.

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