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I am a grader for a CS course at the college institution I attend. The professor I am TAing for is a full-time employee at a company. He is teaching this CS course on top of doing that. The first exam and homework assignment have been collected. He has effectively told me that he "trusts my judgment" in the grading and is not giving me solutions to grade the exam and assignment against.

Is this a fair practice? Whether the solutions are supposed to be given me was not established before I started as grader.

I'm just unsure since I have not heard of this type of situation happening. In my experience the professor has always given solutions to the grader. I am unsure of what to do at this point.

Edited Update: Prof still wants me to use my own solutions and the CS dept has decided as long as he is "supervising the grading," he is permitted to allow this. I will be grading them with my solutions. I suggest for anyone to possibly contact the department for the official policy. In terms of whether it's a fair practice, I see that the discussion still stands.

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    Although I provide solutions for the grader (and for the students), I'm not aware of any rule requiring me to do that. When I was a student (in the 1960's) I took some classes in which we got solution sheets prepared by the grader. – Andreas Blass Oct 27 '18 at 4:03
  • I ask TA's to take the test themselves for feedback on how clear the questions are, plus to double-check my answers. That much is certainly not beyond the pale. Trusting them completely for tests seems pretty risky though. If CS homework means looking at their code and checking if it works (or spotting what's wrong with it), that certainly seems like something that can be left to you. – A Simple Algorithm Oct 27 '18 at 4:28
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    Based on my experience, I would say the answer to the question of whether it is OK for an undergraduate (as opposed to a grad student) to grade undergraduate exams in the first place, with or without a rubric, is a big, fat "no." Can you clarify your undergraduate/graduate student status? – Mad Jack Oct 31 '18 at 12:55
  • I think the main question is not the fairness to students (is it "fair" to have lecture hall classes? to tout Nobel Prize faculty that don't really teach much?). The main issue is just one of workload division between the TA and the instructor. There are probably a lot of different models here (in terms of TA workload) and just occasional tussles on exact divisions. That this prof has a real job is relevant (likely trying to manage his time commitment, just as TA is). I would try to push back (less assignments or easier ones to grade). Don't completely roll over...tussle a little! – guest Mar 28 at 21:00
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I can't tell quite what your concern is, so I'll address both.

Is it OK for a non-professor to write solutions and design a rubric?

In my experience (large US universities, STEM), this is extremely common. I disagree a bit with others saying that only professors can make such determinations (though of course the instructor of record can make such determinations if they are inclined to do so).

Is this abusive toward the TA?

How are you being paid?

  • If it is hourly, then there is no issue; you should solve the problems and make a rubric however you see fit, and then bill for that time as normal.
  • If it is a set stipend, then there is usually a nominal time requirement (in my university it was 20 hrs/week for grad students). If making solutions will put you way over this, it's fine to raise the issue with the professor and/or with the administration (in fact, you may technically be required to do so)

One other tip -- you might consider taking the top-performing students' solutions and using them as a starting place for your own solutions. Of course, you'll have to be sure you're grading those students fairly and catching any errors. But I've found that the I can often create a solution set just by mixing and matching solutions from the top ~3 students and adding a few expository details.

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    I use the top two or three students solutions to check my solution set... – Solar Mike Oct 27 '18 at 7:03
  • For the first question, clearly I think it is OK. However, in my circumstance I don't believe it was in his original intention (I think he's being lazy and just wants me to come up with the solutions). I don't have the solutions or a rubric. I am being paid a set stipend. But nonetheless, thank you for the tip! I will definitely be implementing that. – user1394 Oct 27 '18 at 7:16
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    Completely agree he is probably being lazy! But unless that's requiring a time investment far beyond what is normally expected for your stipend (and absent some specific policy to the contrary), he is probably allowed to have you do this. – cag51 Oct 27 '18 at 18:40
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Ask to be paid for all the work you are required to do.

Most graders are employed on casual rates and paid per hour. If that is the case then you should speak to the administrator in charge of employing you and confirm with him/her that you will have to find the solutions to the assessment problems and determine an appropriate marking scheme (for partial marks) as part of your grading duties, and that this will take you extra time. Make it clear that you expect to be paid for the additional time you spend on the work, and get confirmation that this will occur before you start working.

If you are usually paid a flat-amount for grading, or an amount per script, and this usually includes being supplied with solutions, then you should again raise this matter with the administrator that is in charge of employing graders, and get confirmation that you will be paid extra for the additional time you spend finding solutions to the assessments and creating an appropriate marking scheme. Again, make it clear that you expect to be paid for the additional time you spend on the work, and get confirmation that this will occur before you start working .

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No, there is nothing wrong with the instructor expecting you to solve the exam yourself. If you're being paid to grade this exam, then you should be operating at a level much, much higher than the level of the students taking it. If the time allocated for them to take them exam was 90 minutes, then you should probably be able to solve it, 100% correctly, in 20 minutes. This is a relatively small amount of time, and it's also time well spent, because it forces you to think through all the steps of the solution.

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No, this is not fair practice (here I mean 'fair' as in fair to the students being graded). That's because without knowing what the ideal answers are it's awfully hard to grade fairly. For example take this question:

Explain how mirages form. (3 marks)

You probably have some idea how mirages form. Realistically, grading this question would depend on keywords. These processes X, Y and Z are involved in forming mirages, and each one is worth one mark. Or is it? Maybe the professor taught in class that only X and Y are involved, in which case each should be worth 1.5 marks, since it would be extremely unfair to expect students to say Z.

What to do: speak to the professor about the questions that you can't easily grade. Don't ask him for ideal answers or a grading scheme (since those he's already left to you); ask instead "what did you teach for this question?"

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Where I taught, it was spelled out in the TA/grader policy that the professor had to supply the rubric. So you might check what the written rules are at your school. They might be on your side.

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I think you have misphrased the question. The question should say "The professor isn't giving me a rubric"; if the professor isn't giving you the solution, then presumably he isn't giving you a rubric, either, which is more of an issue. Unless there's no partial credit or anything along those lines, it's the professor's job to decide not only what answers will be accepted, but how many points each question is worth, and what level of answer receives how many points. Even if you solve the questions correctly, that won't answer those sort of questions. Plus, what a correct answer is can depend on the course. To take a math example, some teachers might take 9 pi as a correct answer to "What is the area of a circle with radius 3?", but there are probably math teachers out there who insist on 28.27. If the professor has solved the problems himself, then he is making you redo a lot of work. And if he hasn't, that's rather odd.

So rather than asking for solutions, for which he has come up with the dodge "Just solve them yourself", you should ask for the rubric, for which it's going to be harder for him to pretend that he isn't avoiding something that he should be doing himself.

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    "It's the professor's job to decide not only what answers will be accepted, but how many points each question is worth, and what level of answer receives how many points." I wouldn't be so dogmatic about that. In my experience, it's not unusual for this to be delegated to a TA or even a grader. Maybe you don't agree with that, but I don't think it's so extreme that a grader would get automatic support if they objected, unless the institution has specific rules on the subject. – Nate Eldredge Oct 27 '18 at 4:56
  • Where I'd be especially concerned is if there is more than one TA sharing the marking. If it's only one person, at least it'll (hopefully) be consistent. – Flyto Oct 27 '18 at 10:09

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