the problem with “robot grading” isn’t the robot

Back on this issue one more time but with a different spin that isn't about the robot at all. The question is why has grading/assessment become such a mass industry that it requires automation? And more importantly what does this say about our attitudes toward writing? The typical composition adjunct earns around $2500 per course, about $100-$150 per student. Let's assume that the student is taking an otherwise free-content online course where they are writing 5 5-page papers. To get the level of feedback we currently get from a FYC course, we'd be asking students to pay around $5 per page for feedback.

Think about the things that cost around $5. A venti latte? a foot-long sub? a gallon of gas (nearly)? How about $25 (the cost to review a 5-page paper)? You might spend that going to a movie. Or going out for dinner. Or buying a used video game. Now it's certainly true that there are people in America who would have to think carefully before blowing $25 on a night at the movies. On the other hand, movies are a $10B a year industry. Same with video games. So you might only got out to eat once a month if you're a student on a budget. That's still 12 times a year. That's double the amount of times you'd be asked to pay $25 for someone to read your paper in a composition course: the one composition course that you would take in your entire life!

So basically what we are saying is that getting feedback on your writing is less valuable than going out to the movies. 

Tell me once more how important developing literacy and communication skills is?

However this isn't all about economics or rational decision-making. We need to ask why it is that grading and feedback are so undesirable. More importantly, why has writing become dominated by a curriculum and pedagogy that views writing as such a dull activity? And here I don't mean to impugn my rhet/comp colleagues or the many adjuncts teaching this course. There's some larger, systemic problem here that results in the attitudes we have toward writing.

So rather than saying our problem is how to automate the evaluation of all this writing that no one actually wants to write or read (and that no one even wants to pay $25 to have someone read), I would ask "what would have to happen to make writing into something students would consider worth learning to do well?" 

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