The emotional impact a failing grade has on a student can be difficult, but according to a number of Seaholm students and teachers, the color of pen used for grading can significantly impact a students’ self esteem.
A study in the European Journal of Social Psychology even claims that when teachers grade in red ink, they are more likely to spot errors on tests and quizzes, and to be harsher grading papers.
In the study, people were given either red or blue pens and asked to correct an assignment. It was shown that the people that were given red pens saw significantly more errors on the assignment than the people with the blue pen.
The red pen has been associated with being wrong. Certain teachers, including Spanish teacher Cathy Buch, have begun to use blue, green, and even purple pens to grade tests, quizzes, and homework. Buch said grading in red is too harsh on students.
“I feel there is a negative association with red when it comes to grading,” Buch said. “Using other colors just seems friendlier.”
Buch has a personal reason for not using red ink while grading.
“When I was growing up all my teachers used red pen,” Buch said. “Every time I would get work back, and there was red all over it, and it looked like blood. It just left me scarred. So I choose to use other colors like green and purple.”
Other teachers see no problem in grading with just a plain red pen.
English teacher David Reed-Nordwall said that the color of the pen doesn’t matter, but the observations are what count.
“It’s not the color of the pen, it’s the quality of the comments,” Reed- Nordwall said. “If a negative comment is in green, blue, or red, it’s still negative.”
Other teachers have a different take on the use of red pens.
“I use a red pen because it’s the one color I know students are not going to do their homework in,” Economics teacher Mark Wicker said.
Students have different opinions about the color of pen used for grading. Some think it is not relevant, while others believe it can have a severe impact on their feeling towards their class, their work, and even their teacher.
“I do not like it when teachers use red to grade,” junior Erin Kavanaugh said. “It’s just a bunch of red ink - it looks like blood.”
Also, sophomore JP Tallent feels like the color of pen is too prejudiced.
“Red pen just feels harsh,” Tallent said. “Red, it just seems like blood: discouraging, and scary.”
Other students don’t care what color their work is graded in. Freshman Macey Krandall is unaffected by teacher’s pen color choices.
“I don’t really care what color ink it is,” Krandall said. “It’s ink, it shouldn’t matter. A grade is a grade.”
Some students assume that comments are only used to help them improve, regardless of color.
“The color of pen just doesn’t matter,” senior Alex Walker said. “There is no difference in the color of pen. It’s still correcting your work no matter what.”