Do You Grade in Red?

Did you see this in The Chronicle? New research on the effects of red pens, but this time the effect measured is on the grader…

From the article:

Participants in a new study were asked to grade two paragraphs written—they were told—by a student learning English. The 103 participants were randomly given either a blue pen or a red pen. The result: Those given red pens marked significantly more errors.

In another experiment, students were again randomly assigned blue or red pens and asked to grade a one-page essay on a scale from zero to 100. The median grade assigned by those with blue pens was 80. The median for those with red pens was 76.2.

There’s more.

You can go here to see the study.

8 thoughts on “Do You Grade in Red?

  1. I’m sorry, but I don’t have to read this particular article to know it is the kind of pedagogical reasoning that makes me believe there are at least, now, eight kinds of lies:
    a lie, a damned lie, a statistic, a study, a report, a focus group, a finding, and any kind of educational research.

    Now excuse me while I duck!

    Benjamin Disraeli

    • Incidentally, I’ve got a few red pens waiting for you. You know that I don’t touch the things. 🙂

    • Be careful MathArt,
      According to the San Diego Union-Tribune:
      “The writing-instrument industry is a lucrative one, netting more than $4.5 billion in U.S. consumer spending a year, and the nation’s major suppliers of pens have discovered many teachers like [MathArt].”

      Here’s the link:

      Once again education comes down to the business of profit$. In the end it’s the child that gets the shaft. I’d say we’re just puppets getting our strings pulled by capitalists if we don’t grab a different color pen or at least consider the idea worthy of our attention.

      “…tradition is hard to break.” It says so in the article.

  2. This is my favorite line in the whole paper:

    “They were given as much time as they needed to complete the task, after which they were thanked, probed for suspicion, debriefed, and dismissed.”

    I take all of these findings with a grain of salt. At least the authors admitted that in using college students as participants the findings may be flawed, since they had no way of knowing whether the participants were even able to recognize errors in the writing.

    I like my red pen because it allows both my students and me to quickly see where mistakes were made. I think seeing x’s and things crossed out is much more distressing than the color that is used – I always circle mistakes and try to write positive, productive comments instead of negative ones.

    One other note: red usually represents aggression or danger, blue usually represents calm and serenity. I wonder what results they would have found if they used pink pens. Pink generally elicits pleasant feelings, though it has also been shown that too much pink can cause irritability.

    • I’m not surprised that a school article provokes a link to an article about prisons. These days, there’s not much of a difference between these two institutions.

      Quote from Tyranosaurus X’s link:
      “Do your time and shut your mouth and do what you have to do.”

      Raise your hand if you’ve heard these words coming from school buildings?


  3. I use pencil since I tend to comment on student essays and make changes to my own words mid-sentence.
    Lead… the new red. Give it a try!

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