This semester, I’ve experimented with anonymous grading for the first time. Now that I think about it, it is a mystery why it took me so long to realize the obviousness of it, but better late than not at all, I suppose. As many other countries, the Netherlands does not have a tradition of anonymous grading at all, but I recently found out that in the UK it is fairly common practice, showing that it can be done. This was one of the topics of Jennifer Saul’s recent Aspasia Lecture in Groningen, and I am happy to report that she made such a good case for it that my colleagues in the evaluation board of the Faculty are already looking into adopting anonymous grading systematically.
Why should it be done? Well, for those of you familiar with the literature on implicit biases, the answer will not be hard to find: we inevitably rely on stereotypes and preconceptions to perceive and judge people, which serve as convenient heuristic shortcuts. This can have a negative effect on how we judge members of stigmatized groups (based on gender, ethnicity, class, geographical origin etc.), and it can also unfairly boost our judgment of privileged groups. With grading in particular, it has been noticed that anonymity significantly increases the average grades of members of these stigmatized groups, simply because their work is looked upon more objectively without the association to a particular person. (See this informative report by the British National Union of Students.)