Definitely, definitely try this

A few weeks ago I gave a test and asked the students not to write their names on their paper.  And I highly recommend it if you know your students at all.  Here is what I noticed when I graded their work while not knowing who it was I was grading:

I was more demanding of my stronger students.  I didn’t give anyone the benefit of the doubt because I knew they knew the content and just forgot to complete the square.  Nor did I figure that they meant what I thought they knew.  Each person really had to write in a way that demonstrated they knew the content exactly.

I was more demanding of my weaker students.  I didn’t think, “oh, this guy is having such a hard time with his folks,” or “I already gave her such a hard time this week about missed homeworks.”

I spent a lot of my grading time wondering whose paper I was grading.  This was worrying to me.  It was as if I wanted that information to make judgement calls or decide how to phrase something.  But why is that?  Shouldn’t I have a similar “teacher” voice for each student?  Shouldn’t my judgement be the same for each test that I grade?  It made me glad I didn’t know.  I had to go back to just the work – just the words that the student had used to answer the question.

Now, I did re-read my comments for each one to temper them and made small changes in tone.  I wish I’d kept track of how I did edit them but that ship has sailed.

And when I returned the tests and my comments, I had one bright student say, “but you know I know this!” – and I could say to him that I didn’t know whose paper I was grading.  And that the paper he handed in didn’t demonstrate that he knew it. Then I knew I had done right.

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