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A Solution for More Equitable Assessment and Evaluation

An educator’s quest is to make their course grading as fair and equitable as possible so that students have the same opportunity to be successful. Despite everyone’s best intentions, including administrators, instructors and support staff, biases creep into our interactions. Being aware of biases is the first step to leveling the playing field. Some of these can include: 

  • The confirmation bias effect: the tendency for teachers to seek out information in favor of former beliefs and conclusions. For instance, if an instructor views a particular student as idle in their work ethic, they are more likely to consider that learners’ test answers incorrect, as they may already believe the student didn’t properly prepare for the exam. 
  • The glass ceiling bias: the limitations for female learners based on stereotypical bias. For example, a misguided educator may be more likely to favorably grade their male students on science and technology-driven STEM examinations than their female counterparts — as the instructor may deem that women are too emotional to be analytical. 
  • The own-race bias or cross-race effect: when instructors, who are better able to identify with members of their ethnic group, are prone to develop rapport which can influence their grading scores, especially compared to other students outside their race. 

Rubrics have been a basic, long-used tool in helping mitigate biases because they standardize the practice of grading exams and homework. Well-designed and detailed rubrics promote transparency and set clear expectations for students. With this knowledge and the guidance in the rubric, students are often inspired to put more effort into an assignment because they can see incremental steps to a better grade. Or, if the rubric is tied to an exam and the instructor marks where their answer corresponds to the rubric, a student can see what they missed and how to improve. 

To maximize the impact of rubrics, hiding or removing student identifiers while grading further promotes fair evaluation. Recently, Gradescope by Turnitin launched an anonymous grading capability to do just that in a click of a button, eliminating the arduous barriers of doing so by hand and making equitable grading a more advanced, efficient, and effective process. 

The platform helps educators streamline grading workflows and has been proven to cut grading time in half. It supports both paper-based and digital work; across all subjects, assessment, and assignment types; and in-person, hybrid, and fully remote learning environments. The latest innovation of anonymous grading enables educators to promptly score answers of unknown students during their workflow, turning identifiers into randomized alphanumeric characters that conceal learner identities. Specific functionalities are also disabled or modified to hide student distinguishers outside the grading process to avoid accidental identification.

Anders Carlson, Turnitin Product Marketing Manager for Gradescope stated, “Especially with pandemic learning disruptions, we want to make equitable assessment as easy to uphold as possible. Introducing anonymous grading into Gradescope is one of the innovations we are providing to help promote fairness in classrooms and equal opportunity for all students.” 

“Trust between faculty and students goes beyond the grading process. Students that have confidence in a fair grading process tend to have more trust in their educator and classroom learning methods. Gradescope helps nurture this relationship,” Carlson continued. 

After all, teachers didn’t get into teaching to do busy work or grade papers. They want to engage with students and help foster the next generation of leaders and innovators. “Having trust is the key to so many positive outcomes in teaching,” said Dr. George M. Gehring, Assistant Teaching Professor of Physics at Penn State Harrisburg. “Students who trust that their professor has their best interests in mind are more likely to seek help, participate in class, respond to feedback, and ultimately get more out of the educational experience.”