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Red marks all over a returned writing assignment are enough to turn any student off. Additionally, red marks that are left on the paper or essay can also make a student feel badly about writing if the teacher is not objective with his/her comments. In fact, when a teacher grades a student on his/her opinions or some other immeasurable criteria that does not quite addresses the student's ability to write a coherent argument, there could be one major side effect - tuning out.
The most serious effect of teachers using unfair grading to measure a student's progress is that the student ultimately becomes turned off the subject of writing itself. This is because the student loses confidence in his/her ability to write because they don't what criteria the teacher requires to receive an excellent grade. If the student repeatedly does poorly and is never clearly told why their paper is not exceptional, or not even passing for that matter, they begin to see their efforts as futile. In some cases, they may feel as if the teacher does not like them because of the low score and this further turns them off the subject of writing all together; or the student may feel like the teacher is picking on him/her or she/he has favorites who only receive excellent grades.
Conversely, many teachers do not realize that when they play favorites in the classroom or they don't grade papers objectively this undermines the respect and authority that the students have for them. When a teacher plays favorites or is not clear concerning her/his grading criteria, students rationalize that the teacher is unfair so it does not make sense to even try to write a great paper. This leads them to also tune out of lectures when the material they need is cogent to the assignment that has been given. What's worse is that the student no longer respects the authority of the teacher because he/she knows that the teacher does not treat all students equally or fairly. Teachers can combat this unfairness that students may feel by stating clearly at the beginning of the course what the directions are to the assignment; by giving a sample paper to guide the students in their assignment; clearly stating what it means to earn an "A" grade; by never grading students on their opinions used to support the paper; and finally, by returning the paper with specific comments that suggest ways to improve. Another tactic a teacher can use to ensure her/his environment is to be fair to all students and to avoid always praising one particular student. Instead, try spotlighting the uniqueness of each student in the class. In this way, all of the students in the class will feel as if they have something worthwhile to contribute. Also, the best composition teachers instruct their students on the best way to write different types of essays and papers, ranging from book reports to research papers and dissertations.
This last suggestion is important because all teachers have different styles of instructing their students. However, if the students have the basics, the style of the instructor will not matter because they will have the foundations of term paper or essay writing and they will be able adjust to any assignment. The instructor, though, must take pains to encourage a classroom environment that facilitates the exchange of all of ideas so that the student feels comfortable enough to stay tuned into the subject of writing. Yes, teachers may not realize it, but in more ways than they can imagine, they hold the keys to whether a student will excel or flounder in their attitude and approach to teaching.
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