While I share Tosh's skepticism, I think my take on this issue
(which has been discussed on a couple of other lists, including
the TechRhet one) is a little different.
If readers are raters, it doesn't matter much to me whether
they're machines or human beings. The machines, in fact, will
probably be more consistent, and if our aim were to teach people
to write in ways that will get good ratings, well, I think
machines might help. But of course I don't think that is, or
should be, anyway, our aim . . .
> wondered if machines can ever really simulate (and eventually
> replace?) human raters.
Sure. If machines _can_ do it, machines _should_ do it . . . and
if it's something that shouldn't be done, it's a lot easier to
stop doing it if you don't have to fire or lay off people you've
hired to do it. Machines are easy to retrain, or junk.
> I am also concerned about the effect the machine grading
> might have on student writers whose essays will never be read
> by another human being. Sure, the students in standardized
> testing already do not receive human responses from the
> raters, but I fear the changes might further push the
> perception that writing is all about fixed formulae rather
> than a genuine human response to a rhetorical situation.
IMHO, students rarely to never have the experience having their
essays read "by another human being." Instructor as grader /
rater doesn't really function as a human audience, even if the
paper comes back annotated lavishly and with lots of pseudo-
sincere marginalia. The writers who are able to _treat_ this
kind of reading as though it represented a real human being are
those, generally, who need the least help with their writing.
However real and human that overworked rater / grader is, the
situation makes it extremely difficult for the relationship
around the text to be human, or seen as such by the writer.
And I just love this:
> With the increasing number of mandates to test student
> writing, "there's a certain inevitability to computerized
> essay grading," said Stan Jones, Indiana's commissioner of
> higher education. Indiana's computerized essay scoring, he
> said, will reduce by half the cost of administering a
> pencil-and- paper test and will free teachers from
> distributing, collecting and, above all, grading thousands of
> test booklets.
I know a better way. And _way_ cheaper.
St. Thomas University
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