Blind grading would eliminate bias, help students

Most students can relate to feeling fear when an assignment or test is returned. But the grading process isn’t something professors and teaching assistants look forward to either. While assigning grades to work causes discomfort for both parties, issues that plague grading go beyond just causing frustration.

One issue with grading is that it often can be swayed by bias. Professors are at liberty to grade however they please, and while most do not approach grading with ill intentions, it cannot be certain that bias does not exist when professors choose a score for each assignment. However, this issue can largely be solved by eliminating names and adopting a blind grading system.

In two of my course sections during the spring semester, professors informed students that they would grade our papers anonymously. Blind grading can be achieved in a number of ways. Some professors may have students write their name on the last page of an assignment instead of the first, or have students leave their names off assignments altogether and use their GWID instead.

When professors told my classes they would be grading our assignments anonymously, I felt calmer about the grading process because I knew the grade I would receive would be completely fair.

I knew the grading was anonymous, so I didn’t have to worry so much about whether the professor liked me on a personal level or if not going to office hours was going to hurt my grade. For some students, the issue of eliminating bias is more pressing because they may be concerned about a professor lowering their grade due to their race, gender, sexual orientation or even political affiliation.

Eliminating fears about potential bias in grading made me more comfortable in my classes, which is why I found it so disappointing that none of my professors this year included anonymous grading in their syllabi.

It’s not just that anonymous grading makes individual students feel more comfortable – the practice really does eliminate bias. While some professors wouldn’t want to admit to bias in their grading, it’s true that there is implicit and explicit bias in grading regardless of the professor’s best efforts to prevent it.

Anonymous grading is not a new concept, but it is something that often receives resistance from professors that argue it prevents them from tracking students’ progress. Implementing anonymous grading doesn’t prevent professors from monitoring students’ progress in the classroom because they can still see how students are doing during discussions and by identifying the work after it is evaluated.

It also wouldn’t be difficult for professors to begin this practice. Blackboard, a website professors use to track grades throughout the semester, has settings to enable blind grading.

Ultimately, choosing to grade assignments without noting the student’s name is not difficult. It could add a bit of extra work to an already tedious activity, but that extra step is worth it to ensure a fair grading procedure. Blind grading greatly reduces the effects of implicit and explicit bias in grading, and all professors should take steps toward grading papers and exams blindly.

Kiran Hoeffner-Shah, a sophomore double-majoring in political science and psychology, is The Hatchet’s contributing opinions editor.

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