Acade(me)

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Quote of the Day
Thursday, November 02, 2006
Blind
On Halloween night, I sat at our kitchen table grading the papers for my Senior Seminar. The papers, 6-8 pages in length, were their first "real" assignment. I finished grading late into the night, well after Superman and SuperDad were in bed.

When they wrote the papers, I asked them not to put their names on them. They included only their ID numbers in the header of the paper so it appeared on each page. I graded them (the grade is on the last page of the paper) and then handed the papers over to Amy, Administrative Wonderwoman, so she could look up the ID numbers and put the last names on the papers for me to turn them back. I recorded the grades quickly before heading off to teach, taking little notice of which grade matched which name. When I handed them back to my students yesterday, I honestly couldn't remember who received what grade.

I had a professor who used this same method, grading the papers without knowing who wrote them. I felt, as a student, that it was a more "fair" way of grading, since the professor could not let his personal feelings about the student influence the grade he gave. I know a lot of the students in my Senior Seminar fairly well (indeed, I am the faculty advisor to about five of them), and I was worried that my knowledge of their situations (e.g., Student A needs this class to graduate, Student B has never received a grade less than B+ in any course in our discipline) would color how I viewed their papers. I liked not knowing who the author was.

Until I handed the papers back.

I think I'm a pretty fair and consistent grader, and I like to believe that, by reading my detailed comments, students know why they received the grade that they did. But when I saw their sometimes horrified, sometimes elated faces as they saw their grades yesterday, I felt horrible. I didn't like the fact that I felt like they were staring up at me, feeling "betrayed" somehow by the grade they had been given. I especially didn't like that one of my best students, one who is headed to law school, looked so dejected about her grade as she sat, fully prepared for class, in the front row. (I later found out that she earned a C on the paper.)

Although it was easier on me at first to grade the papers blindly, it is harder on me later. I stick by my grades and I don't think I graded any of the papers too harshly. A C paper is a C paper, no matter who wrote it. But somehow I wish I could've softened the blow, couldn've written something encouraging and personal to the students who didn't do as well as they (or I) had hoped. Grading is definitely the worst part of this job, but facing a roomful of students who have just been graded plays a close second.
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 11/02/2006 08:48:00 AM  
2 Words of Wisdom:
  • At 1:00 PM, Blogger Aliki2006 said…

    I am very intrigued by this method of grading...I've never tried this before, at all. My husband grades exams that way--he flips the blue book cover back before he starts and doesn't look at the names until he's done.

    I think I might give it a try--I'd have to find an alternative system, as I don't have an assistant extraordinaire like Amy (well, I have no assistant, actually!!). Perhaps I can assign a number to each student beforehand? I'll think of something.

    I know what you mean about feeling as if you betrayed them. But I think the anonymous grading technique eliminates a lot of angst about fairness.

    Thanks for the idea!

     
  • At 1:29 PM, Blogger IrrationalPoint said…

    In most UK university, blind marking is standard practice for exams. Some universities also have a policy of blind marking for course work.

    As difficult as it may be a for a good student to get a bad grade, or to give a good student a bad grade, students need to know when they produce bad work. It's not fair for some students to get graded on reputation or previous performance, and it's no favour in the long run to grade a poor essay leniently. Honest feedback is an important part of teaching.

    Aliki,

    do your students have matriculation/enrollment numbers? or ID numbers of any sort? Those could work for anonymising papers.

    --IP

     
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