Grading Support Kit

By Diane Boyd, Executive Director of the Faculty Development Center
& Associate Dean of Faculty Development, Furman University


You may have read about or seen the film Temple Grandin starring Claire Danes, who developed a hugging machine for herself and then revised it to soothe cattle at their end of life.  A recent experiment replicated a similar technique using pneumatic breathing apparatus to calm anxiety (learn more here). While your mug can’t hug you, we did find some evidence that its smooth tactile glazing can enhance calmness and wellbeing (link here).


The peppermint oil in the candy cane can help improve memory (link here), cognition, and mood (link here). You can find a general overview of the positive effects of peppermint via a student-produced science magazine at Northeastern University (link here).


The hot chocolate mix includes cocoa, which has long been studied for its antioxidant properties and positive impact on heart and gut health (link here). Whether you heat it up ahead of the grading swath or use it as a reward for completing your work, we hope you will enjoy it!

Build In Rewards

The author of Atomic Habits James Clear advocates that we “layer” habits—complete a less-desirable task and follow up with a task we enjoy.  Several colleagues shared variations on this theme:

  • “Grade for X minutes, then a walk or yoga or a snack or anything other than grading.”
  • “Pacing myself: how many days, how much grading —> grade only # per day and then I’m done.
  • “Also, ‘treating myself’ by going somewhere different and nice (but grading-appropriate), like a favorite coffeehouse.”
  • “I try to set a goal and set a reward. Grade all the students’ assignment and the reward is a walk. Grade all the students’ project and the reward is a TV show. Grade all the final drafts and the reward is a big glass of wine by the fire pit with my feet up.”


  • “I write on my to do list: ‘grade 30 min’, and I write that 3 times per day as needed so I get to cross it off 3 times per day. Very satisfying!”
  • “I live by my calendar, so blocking off a specific chunk of time is helpful for me. If I don’t finish in that block of time, I look at my schedule and find another block, but I don’t just keep going. If I haven’t finished during that block, it’s usually time for a change even if it’s to grab a snack or go for a quick walk.”

Make It Social

  • “Co-grading: sitting with a favorite colleague while each of us grades. Take breaks to catch up, enjoy each other. Back to grading.”
  • “I like to make grading social (like co-grading). We’ve put on a couple of grading parties for new TAs this semester. We hoped facing the dragon together would help them.”
  • “I used to grade together with my TAs and we’d finish with pizza. Side benefit was hearing the TAs work through questions about some of the more creative exam responses with each other…a lot of learning going on.”

The Bias-Resistant Method

Grading for Equity author Joe Feldman urges instructors to “grade learning, not behavior.” Colleagues shared some grading motivations that automatically reduce bias in evaluating student work:

  • “For quizzes and exams, I find it faster and just mentally ‘easier’ to grade question by question, rather than exam by exam.”
  • Grading question by question “…is the only way I grade to make sure partial credit is as consistent as possible.”

The Course Design Method (which will only help for next semester)

  • “The sassy answer? Contract grading so that I’m not grinding at the end seeking motivation.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *