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December 11, 2004

Counting Words

I'm grading my students' group blog projects today, and one of the expectations is that all blog entries should meet a certain minimum word length. In the past, I've usually opened Word and copied and pasted text there to run a word count. Now, after a quick Google search, my grading has been completely transformed. The javascript at this website makes counting words faster and easier than ever before.

Of course, word count isn't the only factor in determining my students' grades for their group blog projects, which means I've been grading most of the day, and I continue to find it difficult to grade online work, not simply because I'm still thinking about evaluative criteria for online writing (I certainly allow for a greater degree of informality, for example), but also because the rest of the Internet is only a click away, making it easy to get distracted. I noticed that last year at this time, I found it somewhat difficult to stay on task while grading student blog projects. I'd imagine that this sense of distraction may be more acute this time of year due to the fact that I'm on the job market (sorry I can't be more specific here about how the job search is going), but I'm still convinced that I need a better method for evaluating online work. Any suggestions?

Posted by chuck at December 11, 2004 5:34 PM

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Not really, but I was interested that you require a MINIMUM number of words - I was requiring a MAXIMUM number of words on my student blogs, on the principle that a blog post should be brief and polished rather than long and rambling. Which of course doesn't go for all blog posts but kept my grading limited - I had sixty students blogging and it took plenty of time anyway.

They got 600 words, 1000 for the last and I can't remember the others.

Posted by: Jill at December 11, 2004 6:39 PM

I'm keeping the entries even shorter, a minimum of 250 words for a blog entry, which is usually the typical length. Perhaps slightly longer entries would make the writing seem less repetitive and more devloped/polished. Then, I could require a maximum of 500-600 or so words.

The bigger problem here is probably my own habit of procrastinating until the grades are nearly due.

Posted by: chuck at December 11, 2004 7:30 PM

curl and wc is what i'd do if wanted to automate it. curl grabs webpages, wc wordcounts, and i'd run it through bbedit commandline or strip_tags to remove the html.

of course that is the mechanical bit...

in real life, when grading.... i use one standard for minimal and maximum length, that is quality of post. which means if you readit, and it is 'good' in context, then it is good, if it is like a 'so what, or as students frequently do, just basic provide agreement' then.... it is not good.

length as such is moot to me, what isn't moot is the amount of quality entries they make, which i grade weekly or topically.

Posted by: jeremy hunsinger at December 12, 2004 9:28 AM

Length isn't the only criteria, but it's one that I mentioned as a minimal measure of development.

I'd agree that "quality" is more important, and having read my current students' group projects, I now have a much better sense of how to define that, and it's more or less what you describe. Does teh blog entry pass the "so what" test?

Posted by: chuck at December 12, 2004 10:27 AM

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