An Instructor’s Take on SAGrader

If you’re like most educators, you pay close attention to your colleagues. How are they reaching their students? What tools are they using?

It’s the same with instructors interested in SAGrader. The first thing they want to know is: Who else is using it? Do they like it?

To give you a taste of our user experience, we’ve been highlighting some user experiences on this blog. Today you get a bonus treat.

Pam Thomas, a Biology instructor at the University of Central Florida, recently contributed an article to the UCF Faculty Focus.  The Faculty Focus aims “to provide an exchange of ideas on teaching and learning for the university’s community of teachers and scholars.”

In the October issue, many of the articles dealt with strategies for teaching writing. Pam writes candidly about her SAGrader experience, providing insight into the nuts-and-bolts of using the tool in class.

SAGrader provides Pam with a way to realistically employ writing assignments in the large classes she loves to teach. The result, according to Pam, is not only increased academic performance, but also enhanced engagement with students.

The students react differently when confronted with a blank space to write into. That blank space provides me the window into their minds and a manageable way to grade their responses.

Pam mentions the advantages of assessing student progress before a test or quiz, and the flexibility to design high-level writing assignments just for her class. Pam has found success with scenario questions that require synthesis and application, since it is crucial to help students “develop analytical skills rather than rote responses from open books or notes.”

In one freshman class, Pam saw her in-class test grades increase 12.5 percent when students used SAGrader. Pam attributes this to both the learning and teaching benefits SAGrader provides:

My class was on the way to learning to express ideas in written form, clearly and concisely, while also learning vocabulary, technical scientific information, and critical thinking skills.  You can see exactly why and when students don’t understand, and you can use it to help them learn during the next class or right away if you desire.

If you’re curious about SAGrader, I encourage you to read the entire article (Pam’s article begins on page six). It’s a fantastic look at SAGrader from the teacher’s perspective.