I don’t read students’ drafts. Should I?

Lots of students assume I will read drafts of their work before the final assessment. They do this despite me not offering to do this, or even saying I won’t do it.

Although I’ve sympathy for the students, I don’t want to do it, for a few reasons.

A first reason is that it is unfair to do for some students and not all. It isn’t possible to do for all students, when I teach classes of 200. Or, more precisely, if I took the time to give feedback on 200 drafts then I would have to take the time away from some other part of the course, or from students on other courses.

Not only would this be unfair, I don’t believe it would be the most efficient use of my time as an educator. It wouldn’t be efficient because I know from experience that the feedback I have to give on assignments is the same for the majority of students. In fact, I try and incorporate my advice on how to write the assignment into how I teach the course.

Also, me giving feedback might give a student a false sense of security — as if I have read their work and approved it. The truth is, you can fix the main weaknesses of an assignment and still write a bad assignment.

Most importantly, I think my job as a Univeristy lecturer is to train students to be autonomous learners. This often means asking them to take more responsibility for their work than they are comfortable with. It feels like there is a trade-off between offering reassurance, even if it is of limited value, and helping students come to trust their own judgement.

Obviously, it would be insulting to ask students to complete work without guidance, examples, structures to practice within or feedback of any kind. I provide these things. I give feedback on essay structures and things like question choice, but I draw the line at reading full drafts.

Perhaps this is wrong. Other University lecturers have obviously made different choices in how they design their courses and structure their time. A-level teaching is also obviously orientated around looking at (multiple) drafts. Should I continue that practice, or is it okay to use my courses as somewhere to do things differently?

What do you think?