Stine Bauer Dahlberg: You can’t put a number to a face

“I got a bad grade because my professor hates me.”

Students sometimes moan like this to explain a terrible performance on a paper, test, quiz or report. Often, they are simply covering up a poor effort. Sometimes, however, a faculty member may show some bias in grading.

What if you did not have to put your name on work you submit? If a professor were faced with an anonymous number, like your GWid, would he or she mark it differently? It is a possibility. Having an anonymous number instead of your name on assignments ensures the elimination of any bias in marking. Such an anonymous marking system is an easy way for GW to make their grading system fairer and better.

I’m not accusing all of our professors of bias in grading our papers. In many large classes, professors likely wouldn’t know your name anyway. But in some circumstances, one could easily imagine that when a teacher grades a paper and reads a name, he or she will immediately draw associations with that name.

You shouldn’t feel obliged to befriend your professor to guarantee fair grading. A classmate of mine was recently given a bad grade on a paper “because (she) didn’t come to class,” according to the professor. She should have been marked down on attendance, not on her paper.

The idea of anonymous marking stems from university practices abroad. Universities in several European countries, including Britain, where I have spent my college time thus far, simply use your student number to identify you in the grading process. We put it on a separate page at the front of the paper with our student number, and after we can pick up our assignments, we just have to find the paper with our number on it. It feels better to know that when my professor reads my paper, he or she is simply looking at the work I have put in and how well I’ve understood the subject.

Anonymous grading is also great for those occasions when a student might not get along well with a professor. The two might simply not be a good personality mix, and not having the student’s name on assignments would eliminate the student’s stress of worrying that the student-professor relationship might affect his or her grade. Without this worry, there might be more healthy and honest student-teacher discussions in class, which in turn could improve the entire course as a whole.

To use an anonymous number as identification on assignments is beneficial for faculty, too. First, they would not be faced with a name – they could dive straight into looking at the analysis, depth, reading and understanding. One of my teachers already makes us put our names at the end of our work because he doesn’t “want to associate this or that paper with a particular student.” Second, students would no longer be able to accuse professors of bias in grading a certain paper. I could imagine that these accusations occur pretty frequently, and that they are not very pleasant for faculty.

Possibly the most brilliant part of such a system, however, is that is it will take a minimum cost and effort to implement. It will make GW able to portray itself as a fairer University for almost no cost. We already have our GWid numbers – all administrators need to do is ask teachers to change their procedures slightly. Just make students fill out a front page with their identification number, then let students find their papers from a box when they are due back.

Anonymous grading wouldn’t work in every class or for every assignment. If the class is small, the teacher would probably know who wrote what anyway. Furthermore, if you stop by your professor’s office hours to discuss your paper topic, he or she will probably know it was you as they read it. Lastly, sometimes students understand the material but do poorly on an assignment – it happens to the best of us. In this instance a paper with a name on it might let the teacher know that it was a simple mistake and not a lack of effort or understanding.

In the end, however, your name should matter for nothing when you get graded on a paper. There are few good reasons why GW shouldn’t use this simple measure to become a fairer University, and the costs are extremely low. And maybe there will finally be an end to all the moaning about teachers hating us and treating us unfairly.

-The writer is a junior majoring in

international affairs.

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