Being a teacher: Grading fairly

A little Peruvian boy coming to deliver a puppy at my feet.


While I hesitate to post this, I’m genuinely interested in what other people have to say – particularly other teachers. When I first began teaching I would grade all the tests of my students as uniformly as possible. This came from the belief before I was a teacher that this was the fairest thing to do. Now having just a bit more time under my belt and in my second round of classes, I began to notice a big change in my grading process. Grading is modified depending on the student: While one student diligently comes to every class, working hard to understand the material but still struggling, another only comes sporadically and fails to take the classes seriously when present. I’d find myself marking the former’s test more easily while being harsher with the latter. One can’t deny that personal opinion plays into this: I really enjoy the student who struggles and don’t want her to feel discouraged. The other girl’s flippant attitude and space cadet ways annoy me to no end. Another example regards my best students. My first instinct when they make silly mistakes is to go easy on them: They know the material, this is just an instance where they slipped up. And then I decide they will be far less careless the next time around if I take off more points than less.

**A clarification that I wrote below in the comments: I probably should have clarified that the maximum points are all the same – if a struggling student differentiated correctly between “do” and “does” but didn’t conjugate the verb correctly I might take off a point out of 2 instead of all. If my best student did that I might take off the whole 2! Don’t know if that makes sense.

I’m still not sure if this practice is all right, but I’m happy to hear your evaluation – thanks!! Admittedly I didn’t even think about the idea that it’s a disservice to other students. I feel that because some of my struggling students work just as hard as some of my best but it comes less easy to them, they deserve the recognition when they’re on the right track. Some of my students got in the 70s on the last test – a grade range that I balked at before I started teaching. But I was really excited for them, because I could see the basic concepts were beginning to sink in. The number didn’t really matter so much as they were getting there! For me, their tests were great!**

Tiene Pulgas

Upon depositing the puppy at my feet, both children solemnly warned me 'Tiene pulgas' (It has fleas.). I really wasn't sure what was cuter.

When I first began to observe this new process, basically a unique mental calculus for every student, I was horrified. As mentioned previously, before I began teaching I believed that assignments and tests should be graded as uniformly as possible. To some extent, one could say this is the very rigid, black and white view of a person who never taught before. At the same time I wonder if this is the kind of slippery slope that leads to things like low marks for things such as political disagreement (As an ESL teacher, nothing I think I’ll have to worry about.). In addition, this does factor in my personal opinions just as much as it does the habits and abilities of each student. While somewhat less horrified by the realization of the change in my method of grading, I´m still ambivalent about it and interested in what other people have to say.