SAGrader Helps Lift Scores
Four years ago, Edward Brent created a Web site called Essay Grader.
"The students submit their essays over the Web using a normal Web browser," he said. "Once they submit it, in a matter of seconds they get back detailed feedback and comments with their score."
Brent and his team are improving the program this summer so students can improve their grades this fall.
"We're working on a second version of SAGrader which will be released, hopefully, in mid-fall," said lead developer Ted Carnahan.
Unlike other Web sites that focus on grammar, this one focuses on students' individual writing skills.
MU's Introduction to Sociology is the only course that uses SAGrader so far.
"The benefits are just that the students get immediate feedback and that there would be consistency in the grading," said Jeff McCully, course teaching assistant.
For students' first essays, grades averaged 70%, a C-.
After one or more revisions using SAGrader, grades averaged 90%, an A-.
However, using SAGrader doesn't mean the computer does all the work.
"You have to teach these concepts and the relationships between them," said Carnahan. "That's what you do right now in our stand-alone software, that's what we're moving onto the Web."
And, that work pays off at the end of the course.
"This is one of the first semesters I haven't had to curve the grades because they did so well in this part of the course," Brent said.
Another 100 colleges are testing SAGrader to use it this fall semester.