Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Red Pen Carnage

SCSU Scholars has a post about the use of red ink in grading. I'm not a blind partisan of red ink, although it is my preferred grading color. But the campaign against it is just ridiculous.

The article King links to quotes someone as preferring purple pens to red because of the psychological effect red ink has on students. I had a colleague that used green pens instead of red for the same reason. I think that teachers who try to use a different color in order to accommodate their students' sensibilities are likely to fail in their endeavor. Students are pretty damn smart, and it won't take them long to figure out that green is the new red and get just as upset at comments in green as they would at comments in red.

The most important criteria for selecting a grading ink color, IMHO, are:
(1) students aren't likely to write in it-- that's why we don't grade in black or blue
(2) it is actually readable-- that's why we don't grade in white or highlighter yellow
(3) it stands out to the eye, to increase the likelihood that students will actually read what we write instead of just assuming we graded them low because we don't like them or we had some bad fish the night before grading

If green or purple ink meets all of those criteria, then go ahead and use it. I've occasionally graded in green or blue if I can't find a red pen. But I find that red pens fit criterion #3 better than green, blue, or purple pens.

UPDATE: Kimberly Swygert comments.