Professors So Slow With Grading: Why?

Here’s why some professors take so long to grade:

It’s usually because professors are very busy and have to juggle a lot of responsibilities.

On top of that, teaching and grading are usually a lower priority for most professors, by contract.

Another simple reason is that some professors just don’t like to grade, so they might put it off a little longer than they should.

So if you want to learn all about the reason some professors take forever to grade, then this article is for you.

Keep reading!

Professors So Slow With Grading: Why? (8 Reasons)

Which Professors Are We Talking About?

The term “professor” can actually refer to a wide variety of people.

Some private schools refer to their faculty as professors.

Even a clown college can potentially have professors running classes.

To narrow this whole thing down and keep it under control, I’m going to narrow the discussion.

I specifically want to talk about professors who teach undergraduate classes at higher learning institutions (colleges and universities).

Whether they’re at a major college or a smaller institution, the gist of the job is the same.

With that out of the way, we can talk about why some of them take so long to post grades.

Why Are Professors Slow With Grading? (8 Reasons)

Obviously, there are a lot of professors in the world, and they won’t all be slow when it comes to grading.

But, when that is the case, there are usually good reasons for it.

In fact, I have quite a list of reasons for you below, and you’ll find that any one professor is probably slow on grading due to a combination of these factors.

#1 Class Size

This is first on the list for a reason.

Anyone can understand how teaching a large class can make grading take forever.

If you’re in a 300-person introductory class, your grades are not going to be fast.

Even if the professor has some help with grading, it just takes a long time to process that many assignments or tests.

Especially at the end of a semester, you can reasonably expect your largest classes to take the longest to post final grades.

It’s pretty normal, and there’s not a lot to do about it.

Ultimately, a single professor is in charge of that entire class, and the professor probably has a few other classes to manage too.

It’s a large workload, and that’s really all there is to it.

#2 Material

The class material is arguably more important to grading times than the size of the class.

Large classes require a lot of work, but they usually cover very common material with standardized homework and easy-to-grade tests.

There’s a level of efficiency built into many of those classes.

Some classes really can’t be efficient (in terms of grading) and properly teach the material.

Here’s an example.

College algebra is pretty straightforward, and basically every degree path requires at least some math, so a lot of students take algebra.

It’s really just math formulas, so the homework and tests are easy to grade.

Meanwhile, quantum mechanics is extremely complicated, and it’s not always so easy to grade, even though the classes are a lot smaller than algebra classes.

So, it’s possible that it’s harder for a professor to grade 12 quantum mechanics homeworks than 300 algebra homeworks.

But, there are other subjects where grading is even more time-consuming.

Any time the work is an essay or other written assignment, you can’t fully standardize the grading process.

There are subjective elements to it, and reading through a bunch of papers takes a long time.

So, the type of assignment or test being graded really does matter here.

Combine that with class size, and you’ll get some serious insight as to why some classes get graded a lot more slowly.

#3 Funding

Funding goes hand in hand with class size.

Remember those 300-person classes I keep mentioning?

Usually, they’re very popular classes (often due to common degree requirements).

But, because so many students take these classes, they’re also usually well funded.

The professor for one of these classes might have a small army of teaching assistants who can take up a lot of grading responsibilities.

Because of that, not all of your biggest classes will have the slowest grading.

If the TAs are on the job, it’s not so bad.

Meanwhile, there are other classes with a lot less funding and no teaching assistants.

Those are the classes where you’re most likely to see long grading times, and it’s because the professor has to do absolutely everything all alone.

If such a class has work that is slow to grade and an above-average class size, you’re in for slow grades no matter how awesome the professor is.

There are physical limits to these things.

#4 Research

So far, we’ve been talking about the classes themselves and how they might impact grading.

The larger factor is how a professor spends their time, and here’s a hint, very few professors spend most of their time grading for classes.

It’s easy to forget, but a professor is not a teacher. Sure, professors do teach classes, but the reason you use the term “professor” is that they are an expert in their field.

They’re not just a qualified educator; they actively carry out research within their subject.

A lot of students don’t realize this, but for the average college professor, teaching is a minor responsibility.

Professors are actually chosen for their research more often than their teaching skills.

Researchers bring in grants and other sources of funding to universities, so there is a lot of pressure on professors to do great research and keep the institution solvent.

They have to teach classes too, but it’s not their primary focus, nor is it the thing that takes up most of their time.

You will absolutely find exceptions to this.

Some people become professors specifically because they want to teach.

Those individuals are more likely to remain on top of grading.

But for the average professor, grading simply isn’t a top priority, and it’s easy to fall behind.

There’s a secondary factor to this, and it’s that research doesn’t always require the same amount of time and energy from the professor.

Most research is funded through grants and investors, and there are usually time periods attached to that funding.

So, a professor might have funding secured for the next 18 months of research.

When they near the end of that period, they have to write a bunch of grant requests and pursue funding renewals or alternatives.

When they’re in this stage of research, they’ll have less time for grading.

Similarly, there are aspects of research that just take up a lot of time.

Setting up a new project or lab is temporarily time-consuming.

Also, any time a professor is the principal advisor for a student who is about to defend research, the professor is going to be busier than usual.

It’s all tied to research, but you can see how much a professor’s schedule can change given different circumstances.

#5 Other Responsibilities

The truth is that a professor’s responsibilities don’t end with research.

They do a lot of things, and any one of them can eat up a lot of time and push grading to the back burner.

Many professors work as department heads.

That comes with tons of paperwork and administrative work.

Where I went to school, the professors rotated who had to be the department head every three years because no one wanted the extra work. 

Even when a professor isn’t a department head, they are probably on multiple committees.

They have to sit through thesis and dissertation defenses.

They help with allocating department funds and research proposals.

Many researchers also work alongside private sector and government research jobs.

So, a single professor might teach multiple classes, run their own lab, sit on multiple committees, and consult for private and government projects.

It adds up, and it might be a little easier at this point to see why grading isn’t always the top priority.

All of this doesn’t even mention non-scholastic responsibilities.

Many professors have families.

They have jury duty.

They have lives outside of school, and everything competes for their time.

#6 Experience: New to the Job

No one is born a professor.

When you have someone who is in their first few years of teaching college classes, you’re going to get a bit of variety. 

Some new professors are actually more on top of grading because they’re nervous, they were recently a student, and they’re just trying extra hard.

In plenty of other cases, you’ll find new professors who simply haven’t figured out how to juggle everything yet.

Since the learning institutions actually de-emphasize the importance of rapid grading, it usually falls by the wayside as the new professors try to work out a better balance for everything.

#7 Experience: Too Long on the Job

On the other hand, veteran professors are sometimes the worst when it comes to getting grades out on time.

This is an inversion.

Their grades aren’t late because they haven’t figured out how to balance everything.

Instead, these professors are slow to grade specifically because they know exactly how to balance their professional lives.

They’ve been doing the job long enough that they know what they can get away with.

If turning grades in late helps them meet more important deadlines, then that’s exactly what they will do.

#8 Not Fond of Grading

At the end of the day, professors are still people.

Some of them might not enjoy grading, and they’ll fall into the same traps as the rest of us.

They’ll procrastinate.

They’ll do it in small spurts and take up as much time as they’re allowed before forcing their way through it.

We could go through endless different scenarios, but there are plenty of cases where your professor simply doesn’t want to do the grading.

It happens, and from their perspective, the grade is a lot less important.

So, it’s easy to be slow or late, and unfortunately, there’s not really a way to predict when a professor will feel and behave in this manner.