Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

Essay Grading Computer

PostedAugust 26, 2012

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Anchor Lede: Some students might not think so, but more essay writing is probably a worthy goal in school and on exams. The problem is…reading and grading them is labor intensive.

Randy Atkins: So the Hewlett Foundation recently held a world-wide contest to create an automated essay grader, and a local man is a first place winner. Momchil Georgiev, an engineer at the National Weather Service in Maryland, teamed with a couple of friends to develop algorithms that most closely matched the grading of human experts.

Momchil Georgiev: We looked at many different facets of writing, starting with word counts, sentence counts, vocabulary usage, sentence cohesion, following of grammatical rules.

Randy Atkins: Georgiev admits the software doesn’t really read (it would fail a comprehension test), but that may actually make it more powerful than humans as an objective grader.

Momchil Georgiev: It’s possible for two teachers to have very different grades on the same essay and in fact it’s possible for the same teacher to give a different grade on different days.

Randy Atkins: With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, WTOP News.