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Using AI to Grade Student Assignments: A Step-by-Step Guide + Video Tutorial

As an educator, grading student assignments can be one of the most time-consuming and least enjoyable aspects of the job. However, with AI tools like ChatGPT, it’s now possible to streamline the marking process. In this blog post, I’ll walk through a hypothetical scenario of how an AI chatbot could be used to grade a student assignment.

👉 This blog post accompanies a step-by-step video tutorial for marking assessments with ChatGPT. Watch below or check it out on YouTube.

Step 1: Set up the AI chatbot

When starting a new chat session with an AI tool like ChatGPT, it’s important to provide clear instructions and context. Think of it like hiring a new teaching assistant – you need to give them enough information to understand their role and the task at hand.

Here’s an example prompt to get started:
“Hi, I’d like you to act in the role of an experienced University educator who’s skilled at marking student assignments and providing constructive feedback to help students understand how they might develop their skills, while also taking a kind and caring approach to how you phrase feedback so that the student feels they are supported in their learning journey. Acknowledge and await further instruction.”

This prompt establishes the chatbot’s role and sets expectations for the type of feedback it should provide. The last line, “Acknowledge and await further instruction,” ensures that the chatbot doesn’t start generating content prematurely.

Step 2: Provide assignment details and grading criteria

Once the chatbot acknowledges its role, the next step is to provide specific instructions about the assignment to be graded. This includes sharing the assignment description, marking rubric, and any other relevant materials (like a workbook or template).

Here’s an example prompt:
“Your task is to help me mark student assignments. I’ve provided you with a copy of the assessment description below, and I’ve attached a copy of the marking rubric and workbook. Please acknowledge this information and await further instructions.”

Be sure to include the assessment description directly in the prompt, and use the paperclip icon to attach the marking rubric and workbook as separate files. Instructions on how to do this are provided in the video.

Step 3: Give feedback guidelines

With the assignment details uploaded, it’s time to guide the chatbot on the specific type of feedback you want it to provide. This might include assigning a grade, offering a certain amount of written feedback, and highlighting both strengths and areas for improvement.

Here’s an example prompt:
“Thanks! I’m now going to provide you with a copy of a student’s assessment which I’d like you to mark. When marking the assessment, I want you to provide me with the following:

  1. Assign a grade ranging from [highest grade] to [lowest grade].
  2. Provide 300 words of written feedback for the student, focusing on:
    a) Highlighting positive aspects of their work
    b) Offering constructive suggestions for improvement
  3. Structure your feedback to:
    a) Begin by thanking the student for sharing their assignment
    b) Conclude with an invitation to contact me if they want to discuss further

Please consider the assignment carefully and look for ways the student might improve or areas to compliment them on.”

Step 4: Upload the student assignment* and review feedback

*Note. I created a ‘fake’ student assignment for the purposes of testing ChatGPT’s capacity to provide written feedback, as shown in the accompanying video.

Finally, click the paperclip icon again to attach the student assignment you want the chatbot to grade. Within seconds, it will return a grade and written feedback based on the guidelines you provided.

Here’s an example of what the output might look like:

Dear [Student name],

I’ve reviewed your workbook submission for the BMA357 Freelancing & Small Business course and wanted to express my gratitude for the evident effort and thought you’ve put into the assignments this semester. It’s clear from your reflections that the course material has played a significant role in shaping your perspectives on your career trajectory. Below you will find your assessment results along with my observations.

Grades:

  1. Application: D
  2. Critical evaluation: D
  3. Research: CR

Observations: You have actively engaged with the curriculum through diligent completion of each weekly task. Your workbook traces a journey from personal value exploration to envisioning future work environments, from career strategizing to executing an informational interview, and formulating a strategy for personal branding. Your steadfast commitment to this academic voyage is commendable.

In your reflective passages, you offer a glimpse into your cognitive process and the insights you’ve acquired. I encourage you to push beyond the surface in your reflections for a more profound critical examination of how you can apply these insights to your career path. I suggest a deeper exploration of the relationship between the course content and your individual ambitions and goals. Reflect on how the various facets of your learning—such as your professional values, the envisioned future of work, career strategies, and personal brand—intertwine to form an integrated framework for your professional growth.

Enhancing the research that supports your workbook’s assertions will solidify your arguments and ensure they are well-founded.

In summary, your workbook is a testament to your genuine engagement with the BMA357 coursework.

Should you wish to have a more in-depth conversation about your workbook or any aspect of the course, do not hesitate to contact me.

Congratulations on your hard work.

While the feedback generated by the AI chatbot may not be perfect, it provides a solid starting point that can be tweaked and refined as needed. The real value lies in the time saved and the ability to provide more detailed, personalized feedback to each student.

Caveats and considerations

It’s important to note that using AI to grade student work may not be permitted by all institutions. ALWAYS check with your university’s policies before uploading any student assignments to third-party tools!!!

Additionally, while AI can assist with grading, it should not be seen as a replacement for human feedback.

Even if AI tools were permitted to be used, educators should still review and adjust the generated feedback as needed to ensure it aligns with their expectations and teaching style.

Finally, keep in mind that this technology is still evolving, and there may be limitations or challenges to navigate. However, for educators looking to streamline their workflows, AI-assisted grading might be worth exploring!


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