On grading fashion: Fair and unfair

It’s the end of the semester at my university in Germany and I am carefully working through about 140 pieces of written work which the students have submitted.

student-handing-in-application87347451-198x300Source here

The work needs to be graded in a fair and responsible way, justifiable in case of any relating questions and transparent.

In theoretical projects some of the contributing factors are:

– Structure, good use of language, citing sources, coherent context

– Answering the innitial question or solving the problem

– Using visual materials to support the work

Although the students have been told in advance what elements make up a perfect project or exam, there is a lot of room for my own interpretation which has not been stated anywhere in advance.


teacher-report-card-2 Source here.

The subjects I teach are theory, but in many written projects, the students had to come up with an idea, an interpretation of a subject matter or a concept. So how can one stay fair whilst using personal interpretation? How to stay away from grading “unruly” students a little worse, because they disrupted class almost every session or put their feet up on the table? How to stay objective when grading students who always stayed longer after class and politely asked questions, trying to clarify the class content? Personally, I find it requires a lot of self-reflection and self-discipline to grade fairly.

Self-reflection means noticing, when the impulse is to grade a “nice” student a little better and then disciplining oneself to stay objective. Even if this means re-evaluating all the grades one more time until it is very, very late at night.

1grading Source here.


A final important character trait for grading is to be strong-willed and not afraid of confrontation, when a unsatisfied student comes to discuss the grade. If the grade was given objectively, reasonably, justifiably then there is nothing to argue about.

o-ANGRY-EMAIL-facebook Source here.


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1 Comment

  • Frank August 30, 2015 03.01 pm

    It’s definitely hard to stay objective but is always the best course of action. As you say, it makes it much easier to defend a deserved grade that might be lower than the student expected and wants to argue about.

    A more positive reason might be that some students tend to act out if they dislike the teacher or get the sense that the teacher doesn’t like them. If they do good work and get graded appropriately it might just be the thing that tips them to change their behavior in the better because they might have had it in their head that the teacher hates them and they’ll get graded badly no matter what but if they get a well deserved good grade they might think, “Hey, the teacher doesn’t hate me as much as I thought…” Sometimes that’s enough to get them to back off and start behaving.

    It’s such a touchy thing because it’s almost like playing a game of psychological chess with 30 different opponents.

    But yes, in the end the best thing is to try to stay objective so that you never have to worry about defending yourself. These days, that seems to be more of a problem than ever where students feel more and more entitled, and so do their parents.


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