One of the outcomes of the Harvard budget crisis is that the budget for Teaching Assistants has been brought into line. At Harvard, we've been ridiculously spoiled with TAs for many years now, with a TA for roughly every 12-15 students; last year, I was able to get 6 undergrad TAs for 80 students in my Algorithms and Data Structures class. This year, I'll have a more reasonable TA for every 18-20 students or so. Yes, I know that remains quite luxurious compared to many places; I'm not complaining. But it is a change I have to deal with.
One of the big responsibilities for my TAs is grading. I assign a fairly substantial load of homework in my undergrad class, and unfortunately the number of problems where you can just check the answer without reading through the student's work is small. (They often have to prove things.) And even checking answers takes a long time. Given the new TA/student ratio, it seems unfair (and, quite frankly, unworkable, assuming TAs stick to anything close to their supposed working hours) to have the TAs grade the same homeworks in the past. So, it seems, I'll have to change something. The natural options seem to be:
1) Reduce the assignments. Take what would in the past have been the hardest problem on each assignment and make it an ungraded "challenge problem", for instance.
2) Change the scope/style of the assignments. Less proof-type work, more numerical exercises where you can just check the final answer.
3) Introduce probabilistic grading. Only 5 of the 6 problems will be graded -- you just don't know which 5 in advance.
4) Allow people to work in pairs for assignments. Fewer writeups to grade.
5) Grade more myself.
The first four options all have fairly big negatives associated with them. (Actually, I don't have a problem with probabilistic grading, but I have no doubt it would cause bitter complaints from the students, even if I gave a lecture explaining why it was a reasonable approach. There would always be students coming up afterward to complain that they would have gotten a better grade if I just graded all of their problems, and I don't look forward to having to explain the policy to higher-ups. And working in pairs isn't necessarily a negative, but they can already talk about problems together, and they can work in pairs for programming assignments; I think they should practice writing up proofs themselves.)
The main downside to the final option is, of course, to me personally. I do, already, do some of the grading. It's very time-consuming. Even if the time per assignment is small, multiply by the number of students (I expect 60 this year) and we're talking a good number of hours.
So how much grading should a professor do? How much are others of you doing? Or does anyone have other creative suggestions for solutions before the semester starts?