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For educators, grading can be the dreariest part of the teaching gig. Grading doesn’t feel like what we signed up to do when we decided to teach. So much time outside the classroom spent on paperwork. By ourselves. With piles of paper.
Assessments, too, can feel overwhelming with all-afternoon, higher education “grading pizza parties,” or in other cases, giving up a weekend to pore over exams, quizzes, or essays. With those piles of paper. And our red / purple / green pens.
But as we know, assessment is a significant part of the pedagogical landscape. Grading isn’t just an evaluation, but a means for communication via feedback, a way to motivate our students, as well as a demarcation line between learning milestones. In higher education, assessments often account for at least 50% of the final course grade, which puts pressure on the instructor to grade thoughtfully. Add to that a responsibility to be fair and impartial… and we educators have got quite a challenge on our hands.
Instructors worldwide know that when grading fatigue hits, it can be difficult to remain unbiased. A tired teacher makes for a biased grader--and we all know what it means to be “Teacher Tired.” Couple that with the fact that alas, we educators might have favorites, according to this Secret Teacher; consequently, students with a better relationship with the instructor might end up with a slightly more favorable score.
Bias is real; not only can it inform our mindset while grading, but it can also inform the grades we actually give our students.
So, how can we mitigate bias? We can do things like:
BUT it doesn’t resolve the root cause of bias in grading and making sure we’re doing the best job with feedback.
Here’s the thing: in order to better mitigate bias and to uphold effective feedback, we must tend to our own well-being during grading. Teaching is depleting, so it’s only when we rejuvenate ourselves that we can ensure we are alert, engaged, and fair. And in doing so, we protect the integrity of our classrooms.
The best strategy against bias is to engage in self-care.
So--while cleaning the whole house may not help you progress through the stack of papers--taking a break from grading ultimately benefits both you and your students. Here are nine other ways you can prioritize self-care in order to grade fairly:
Assessment is important. In fact, it’s a way through which we understand where our students are in the learning process and a way for students to receive feedback and a roadmap for learning. But it’s also important to safeguard teacher wellbeing so we ourselves can be the best teachers we can be. We hope this post helps you on your journey.