Assessment and Grading

This page provides resources and information for TAs working in a remote learning environment with regards to assessment and grading. Strategies for grading and providing effective written feedback are outlined below.  

Grading in Remote Learning 

As a TA, you will likely have grading responsibilities in remote learning courses. As each of your roles will vary based on your department and the course, it is important to check with the instructor to confirm your grading responsibilities. Some responsibilities may include grading quizzes, papers, and assignments, grading discussion forum posts, and entering grades in UM Learn.  

Some questions to consider asking the Instructor with regards to grading in remote learning courses: 

  • What are my grading responsibilities in the course? 
  • Which tools will I need to use in UM Learn to grade students’ assignments? 
  • Will students be given the assignment and grading criteria for assignments, tests, and class participation? (if Discussion Forums are graded and used) 
  • Are there rubrics that I should use to guide my grading? 
  • Where do I enter grades? 
  • Will I need to grade Quizzes in the course, or are they fully automated? 
  • What is the quality of feedback to be provided to students on assignments, tests, and exams? Should written feedback be provided in each case? 
  • Should grades be saved in draft form in UM Learn (Gradebook, Rubrics, etc.) so that you can review them before they are posted?  
  • What is the turnaround time for grading? 

Assessments in Remote Learning 

In remote learning courses, some of the assessments that would typically be used in face-to-face courses will be modified. Instructors may choose alternatives to their assessments (such as in-person final exams) that continue to uphold standards of academic integrity. For example, instead of an in-person final exam that is proctored by the TA and the Instructor, students may be required to complete a “take home” or “take away” exam instead.  

Here are some assessment alternatives that may be used in remote learning courses: 

The Centre – Assessment Alternatives  

Western University – Best Advice for Marking Video 

In this video, TAs from Western University share their best advice for marking. Click on the link below to access the video: 

Best Advice for Marking 

Grading Strategies – Before, During, and After 

Having some strategies or best practices to use before, during, and after grading can make grading go more smoothly and make your grading practices more efficient.  

Before Grading: 

  • Familiarize yourself with the course syllabus and assignments 
  • Familiarize yourself with policies related to late assignments, academic dishonesty (including plagiarism), and grade appeals – be clear on what to do in these situations 
  • Determine grading criteria – how will students be assessed on their assignments? 
  • Look at assignment guidelines, rubrics, and grade distribution (what constitutes an A, B, C, etc.)  
  • Consider preparing an answer key for assignments
  • Familiarize yourself with any UM Learn tools related to Grading that you will need to use 
  • Ask the Instructor about the quality of written feedback that needs to be provided to students on their work 
  • If you are not the only TA, consider setting up a virtual meeting with other TAs and/or the Instructor if you have questions before you start grading 

During Grading: 

  • Grade one question or topic at a time 
  • If you are grading one question at a time, consider shuffling students assignments so that you remove expectations based on order 
  • Make notes while you grade to identify how you handled similar errors 
  • Avoid over-marking – keep your feedback and comments brief and avoid marking every spelling/grammar error. Focusing on major issues related to the grading criteria and/or rubrics will help you stay on track while grading
  • Find excellent, good, adequate, and poor examples to serve as anchors or standards 
  • Set limits on how long you will spend grading each assignment (essay, test, etc.) 
  • Review and perhaps re-mark the first few graded assignments before posting grades to compare your grading standard across assessments 

After Grading: 

  • Even though you are working remotely, if you choose to print assignments or are working on a shared computer, make sure that all student assignments and grades are kept in a safe, confidential place 
  • Consider using a locked file or keep physical files in a locked location 
  • Implement at 24-hour wait period before students can contact you to meet virtually about their assignments – This sets a “cooling off” period where they can read feedback and grades carefully 
  • Ensure that you post your grades within the assigned timeframe outlined by the Instructor
  • Consider checking with the Instructor about whether or not they want to check your saved “draft” grades before you post them to students 


A rubric is a scoring grid or scale that features a description of various levels of performance on an assignment. They help to identify the required components and grading criteria for students’ assignments. Rubrics help to enhance the consistency, transparency, and fairness for assessing students work, acting as a guide for how students’ work will be assessed and the weight that will be given to various elements of the assignment. Rubrics can be used to evaluate written, oral, or visual work, and can be used with assignments, tests, and class participation.  

Here is a sample rubric from UM Learn that may be used in a remote learning course: 

CriteriaLevel 5-6Level 4Level 3Level 2Level 1Level 0Score & Feedback
Depth of reflection5 points

Demonstrate a conscious and thorough understanding of the writing prompt and the subject matter. This reflection can be used as an example for other students.
4 points

Demonstrate a thoughtful understanding of the writing prompt and the subject matter.
3 points

Demonstrate a basic understanding of the writing prompt and the subject matter.
2 points

Demonstrate a limited understanding of the writing prompt and subject matter. This reflection needs revision.
1 point

Demonstrate little or no understanding of the writing prompt and subject matter. This reflection needs revision.
0 points

Does not meet requirement.
Use of textual evidence and historical context5 points

Use specific and convincing examples from the texts studied to support claims in your own writing, making insightful and applicable connections between texts.
4 points

Use relevant examples from the texts studied to support claims in your own writing, making applicable connections between texts.
3 points

Use examples from the text to support most claims in your writing with some connections made between texts.
2 points

Use incomplete or vaguely developed examples to only partially support claims with no connections made between texts.
1 point

No examples from the text are used and claims made in your own writing are unsupported and irrelevant to the topic at hand.
0 points

Does not meet requirement.
Language use5 points

Use stylistically sophisticated language that is precise and engaging, with notable sense of voice, awareness of audience and purpose, and varied sentence structure.
4 points

Use language that is fluent and original, with evident a sense of voice, awareness of audience and purpose, and the ability to vary sentence structure.
3 points

Use basic but appropriate language, with a basic sense of voice, some awareness of audience and purpose and some attempt to vary sentence structure.
2 points

Use language that is vague or imprecise for the audience or purpose, with little sense of voice, and a limited awareness of how to vary sentence structure.
1 point

Use language that is unsuitable for the audience and purpose, with little or no awareness of sentence structure.
0 points

Does not meet requirement.
Conventions5 points

Demonstrate control of the conventions with essentially no errors, even with sophisticated language.
4 points

Demonstrate control of the conventions, exhibiting occasional errors only when using sophisticated language.
3 points

Demonstrate partial control of the conventions, exhibiting occasional errors that do not hinder comprehension.
2 points

Demonstrate limited control of the conventions, exhibiting frequent errors that make comprehension difficult.
1 point

Demonstrate little or no control of the conventions, making comprehension almost impossible.
0 points

Does not meet requirement.

For additional information about rubrics, you can consult the following resources: 

Effective Written Feedback 

Effective written feedback on students’ assignments can help students’ learning in many different ways. In providing written feedback to students on their work, TAs have an opportunity for more personal dialogue. Providing students with effective written feedback helps to reinforce existing strengths, keeps goal-directed behaviour on course, identifies areas for improvement, and increases students’ abilities to detect and remedy errors on their own.  

Effective written feedback requires action by Instructors, TAs, and students – the quality of your feedback is important, but the use of your comments by the students is equally important. In general, written feedback is most helpful and effective when it can be understood, accepted, and acted upon in the near future.  


In order for students to make improvements to their work and achieve better results in the course, the feedback that you provide needs to be understood. 

  • Ensure that your comments are typed out clearly so that students understand your comments. 
  • Make comments very specific – instead of writing “good job” or “great work,” explain what the student did that was “good” or “great.” If something is particularly well done, try to articulate why, so that the student can duplicate the effort in the future. 
  • If parts of a students’ assignment are confusing, try to isolate the point at which it became confusing or unclear to show the student how they can make improvements.  
  • Use words that students understand – very often, words have specific connotations in each discipline, avoid using jargon.  
  • We assume that students know these words, but no one gains if we assume that students understand, when, in fact, they don’t. 
  • Students express concern when comments are ambiguous (“poor effort, could do better”), too abstract (e.g. “lack of critical thinking”), or too general or vague (e.g. “you’ve got the important stuff”), and too cryptic (e.g. “why?”) 
  • Where words fail, an example or model can help students understand the feedback you are providing and how it is intended to help them make improvements.  


For feedback to be accepted by your students, the following points should be considered: 

  • Give students only so many comments as they can work with at any one moment 
  • It can be overwhelming for students to receive too many comments and they may not know where to start – it might be worthwhile to think of improvements in terms of increments  
  • Be encouraging in your feedback – show students what works and what they should use again in future assignments 
  • Never be mean or sarcastic – e.g. “That is ridiculous!” 
  • Strike a balance between positive and negative comments 
  • Do not comment on every error or circle/correct every spelling/grammar error – this can demoralize and overwhelm students and distract them from the major issues in their work 
  • Instead, try to focus on specific things from the assignment criteria and/or rubric that students did well or need to improve upon 

Acted Upon 

For feedback to be acted upon, students need to receive feedback that can be incorporated and used within the timeframe of the course. Some considerations for ensuring that the written feedback you provide can be acted upon are as follows: 

  • Make comments future directed – Feedback should not only be backward-looking and a consequence of action, but forward-looking so that students can make improvements 
  • Link comments (and perhaps grades) to student progress – a graduated series of goals for each student make steady improvements possible, regardless of their initial ability to write clearly and effectively. Scaffolding comments can help students gradually improve over time. 
  • Direct comments at the process the student used to create the paper rather than at the specific content of the paper. Comments on the content of the paper have little, if any, future application, but strategies for writing the next paper are useful. 
  • Provide comments in a timely manner for student to act upon them –  check with the Instructor about the expected turnaround time for grading assignments. 
  • Feedback should be provided quickly after the completion of the assignment. Students often do not remember what they wrote, let alone the thought process that led them to their paper. 
  • If necessary, meet with students virtually to review your feedback to ensure that it is understood, accepted, and acted upon for future assignments 

Academic Integrity in Remote Learning 

The transition to remote learning has been rapid and it is changing the ways that we teach and support our students. However, academic integrity remains of high importance as we transition to the Summer and Fall terms. Academic integrity is the commitment to upholding the values of honesty, trust, fairness, respect, responsibility, and courage in all scholarly activities (International Centre for Academic Integrity (ICAI)). Academic Integrity is not only a student responsibility, it’s everyone’s responsibility at U of M.  

As a TA, it is important to be aware of academic integrity policies in the course you are working in and have some awareness of academic integrity at U of M. Here are two important resources to help you learn more about Academic Integrity in Remote Learning: 

UM Learn Tools/Resources 

There are several tools within UM Learn that you may need to use as a TA related to assessment and grading: Grades, Assignments, and Rubrics. The Centre offers workshops on UM Learn tools, but it is best to check with the Instructor if you need to take workshops before enrolling. Here are some important links for UM Learn Support and Workshops: 

Additional Resources for Assessments, Grading, and Feedback 

Here are some additional resources from the Centre for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning and other Universities that may be helpful for you about assessments, grading, and feedback: 


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