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Teachers shouldn't use red coloured pens to mark homework 'because it's like shouting and upsets pupils'
Students think they are being marked more harshly if it's written in redTeachers should use more neutral colours like blue, say researchers at University of Colorado in the U.S'I think it's a rather silly idea,' chairman of Campaign for Real Education
13:13 GMT, 17 January 2013
16:05 GMT, 17 January 2013
Researchers at the University of Colorado found students think they have been marked more harshly if it is written in red ink
Teachers should stop using red pens to mark homework and tests because it could upset schoolchildren, U.S researchers say.
A study showed students think they've been assessed more harshly when their work is covered in red ink compared to more neutral colours like blue.
Sociologists Richard Dukes and Heather Albanesi from the University of Colorado told the Journal of Social Science: 'The red grading pen can upset students and weaken teacher-student relations and perhaps learning.'
In 2008, hundreds of schools banned
teachers from using red ink to correct work because they considered it
'confrontational' and 'threatening'.
Chris McGovern, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, slammed
the findings saying: 'In my own experience of 35 years in teaching is
that children actually prefer teachers to use red ink because they can
read comments more easily.
think this research is misguided. The problem with using a colour like
green or blue is that it's not clear.
'A lot of schools seem to have a
culture where they don't like critcising children but actually this
'It's not intimidating children want to see where they've made a mistake. I think it's a rather silly idea.'
Red associated with 'warning, prohibition, caution, anger, embarrassment and being wrong' according to researchers from the University of Colorado.
To test their theory, 199 students were shown one of four different versions of a fictitious student's essay which had been marked, graded and commented on by a lecturer.
Some got a high quality essay, given an A grade, complete with positive and negative comments in either red or a 'blue-green' pen.
The other volunteers got an essay that clearly was not as good and was given a C grade, again with both positive and negative comments from a teacher writing in either red or blue-green.
But for both the high and low quality essays, the volunteers were more likely to think the teacher writing in red was harsher than the one in blue – even though their grades and comments were identical.
Red is associated with 'warning, prohibition, caution, anger, embarrassment and being wrong' according to researchers from the University of Colorado
Asked to grade the essay themselves, the students reading those marked in red would raise the good quality essay score by an average of 3.4 per cent.
Those reading essays marked in blue would raise the score of the better essay by an average 2.9 per cent.
But the gap was bigger among those given the lower grade essay to review. The students reading the one with comments in red would raise the score by 5.6 per cent.
But those reading the one with comments in blue-green ink would only raise it by 0.7 per cent,
The volunteers also associated the teachers writing in blue-green as more likely to be 'nice, enthusiastic and have a good rapport with students.'
The difference may be small but was described as 'statistically significant' by the researchers.
And it tallies with other research suggesting teachers become more aggressive when they write in red ink, while pupils feel more hard done by when they see red on their homework.
The researchers reported: 'Results suggest that instructors should use a grading pen of a neutral colour.
'In the context of communication, writing in red seems to shout in the same way as writing in all caps or writing which is underscored.
'That is, writing in the color red is loaded with emotion, and this additional emotional loading of messages on the grading of student assignments may not be a tactic that teachers should use to convey constructive, critical comments to students.
'The main effect of pen colour on the expressive evaluation of teaching is moderate but statistically significant.
There appears to be a worthwhile benefit is using an 'aqua' (blue-green) grading pen as opposed to a red one.
'And since this change is an easy one to implement, instructors should consider making this change.'