Instructors can bring biases, both unconscious and conscious, into the grading process using their knowledge of students’ previous scores, race/ethnicity, gender, and other attributes (Malouff, 2008; Malouff et al., 2013). These biases can potentially lead the instructor to grant lower or higher grades to particular students for reasons not completely based on actual performance. To reduce the impacts of such biases, instructors can implement blind grading where student work is stripped of identifiers prior to the review process.
There are pros and cons to blind grading. In addition to minimizing instructor bias, when students know that the instructor is grading blindly, they may believe their scores are more accurate measures of their achievement. However, with blind grading, the instructor may not be able to track individual student progress on assignments and note improvements. Further, handwritten assignments can be difficult to make truly anonymous. In general, when blind grading is appropriate to implement, this strategy can provide instructors and students some reassurance that the impacts of biases on grading have been deliberately minimized to the extent feasible.
Examples and Recommended Strategies
There are several approaches for blind grading–a few are described below. Ultimately the instructor should choose the method that is the most feasible given the context of the course and assignment.
- Cover-up Student Names: In this approach the instructor can simply cover up student names prior to grading and shuffle the work to be graded to minimize identifying students.The instructor might have students write their names on the first page, and leave the remainder of the page blank so that the instructor can simply fold over the page to cover up the names prior to grading.
- Use Student Personal Identification Numbers: Students can be given a personal identification number. Instead of their name they can write this number on their assessment or other work. The instructor may also consider periodically providing the students with new ID numbers if they become recognizable.
- Have Students Write Names on the Back of Last Page: In the case of an exam, quiz or written work, students can be told to write their names on the back of the last page instead of the front page. In this method, the instructor does not see student names until the grading process is finished.
- Encourage Students to Type Assignments Over Writing in Longhand: Handwriting can be identifiable, thus where appropriate instructors can encourage particular assignments to be typed. This approach can be coupled with the use of personal identification numbers or having students include their names at the end or front of the assessment.
- Grade the Same Section or Question for all Students at the Same Time: In the case of grading exams, quizzes or other worksheets, an instructor can grade one section or question for all students at the same time. This can minimize the influence of between-student biases on scoring especially if the name is covered.
- Use Anonymous Online Assessments: The Yale learning management system Canvas has the ability to make assessments anonymous. Instructors can use this feature as appropriate when giving assessments.
Malouff, J.M., Emmerton, A.J., Schutte, N.S. (2013). The Risk of Halo Bias as a Reason to Keep Students Anonymous During Grading. Teaching of Psychology, 40(3): 233-237.
Malouff, J. (2008). Bias in Grading. College Teaching, 56 (3): 192-191.