Reading and correcting student writing is likely the least favorite activity of college teachers. But help is on the way, according to an article in The Hechinger Report by Annie Murphy Paul. Please have a look.
Controversy still exists about the utility of robo-reading software for grading. However, evidence is mounting that such programs are quite good at reading essays and providing feedback to students on proper grammar and punctuation. The new technology appears to be vastly superior to grammar-checkers in word processing software.
Interestingly, students are more likely to follow up and persist when it's a machine making the corrections rather than a teacher, according to researchers.
Some faculty members believe such pedagogy merely enables students to submit sloppy work the first time, since mistakes are so easily fixed. It does resemble a game, but with higher stakes. A few years ago, some wise guy submitted the Declaration of Independence and the Gettysburg Address for machine scoring. Jefferson and Lincoln were rejected as inferior writers. No wonder those boys never amounted to anything. Also, it's entirely possible to compose a sentence with no grammatical errors ("Dude, you suck!") that doesn't measure up, for a variety of reasons. That's where the grading comes in, and the need for a teacher.
Here's an interesting passage from the article:
The computer program appeared to transform the students’ approach to the process of receiving and acting on feedback, [researchers] El Ebyary and Windeatt report. Comments and criticism from a human instructor actually had a negative effect on students’ attitudes about revision and on their willingness to write, the researchers note. By contrast, interactions with the computer produced overwhelmingly positive feelings, as well as an actual change in behavior — from “virtually never” revising, to revising and resubmitting at a rate of 100 percent. As a result of engaging in this process, the students’ writing improved; they repeated words less often, used shorter, simpler sentences, and corrected their grammar and spelling. These changes weren’t simply mechanical. Follow-up interviews with the study’s participants suggested that the computer feedback actually stimulated reflectiveness in the students — which, notably, feedback from instructors had not done.