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Action Steps for Countering Biases When Grading Student Work

Action Steps for Countering Biases When Grading Student Work

Veteran educator and accomplished author Robert Ahdoot wrote an article for ASCD SmartBrief this week about how teachers can counter biases when grading student work. According to Ahdoot, biases are an unavoidable reality that can be mitigated but never done away with.

"Working with students entails a constant stream of social interactions. If someone is entitled, aloof, doesn't take responsibility, disrespectful, etc., doesn't it make sense that those of us in their midst may be less inclined to put ourselves in the path of their wrath?" Ahdoot asks.

Sure does, and Ahdoot, who has been working to curtail his own biases throughout the course of his 10-year career as a math teacher, has some suggestions for teachers who want to counter the natural biases that are developed through human interaction.

"We must create a relationship with every individual, figuring out how we can best serve them. Through getting to know them more, we'll inevitably learn that their outward frustration is really inward sadness. Their salty tongue really stems from inner turmoil or insecurity. Gently slicing through that noise directly models how to get them closer to adopting the very personal skills we wish to imbue," Ahdoot advises.

Ahdoot also recommends:

  • Teachers work to create anonymity when grading students' tests. This can be mean grading each test one page at a time or simply covering pages to avoid seeing names, but Ahdoot insists it's the first step in avoiding bias.
  • Teachers pursue anonymous grading systems available online. "Use online grading systems that offer anonymous grading options for written submissions," he says.
  • Teachers establish firm, non-flexible rules for what constitutes as a "participation credit." "Participation is a massive gray area, which is fertile ground for teacher bias run amok," Ahdoot says. "In your syllabus or class webpage, break down what a 100% in participation entails."

As more and more research concludes that teacher biases have a significant effect on student achievement, Ahdoot's tips have never been more important.

Read his full post here.

Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor

2/14/2017

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