The Zen of Grading

Ruthann Robson:

As law professors, we spend a substantial amount of time engaged in the activity of reviewing exams, papers, and other “evaluative devices” with the purpose of assigning our students grades. Personally, I estimate that I have spent over four thousand hours (almost six months of days and nights, or a year of long summer days) hunched over student work during my teaching career. It can be difficult not to consider student exams as a mere obstacle, a chore of the most unpleasant type to endure, and the worst part of our otherwise usually rewarding work as professors. Grading law school exams has been declared a “deadening intimacy with ignorance and mental fog” which saps a professor’s pedagogical and scholarly energies.I It is a “terrible occupation,” a “cloud,” a task which we accomplish with less efficiency and more distaste as our teaching career advances.2 Professorial engagement with Blue Books, in which most law student exams continue to be written, is deemed tedious and boring, leading to a “corrosive negativity” regarding the intellectual abilities of our students as well as a destructive influence upon our own character.3