"Every teacher tends to grade up students who resemble him the most. If your writing shows neat penmanship you regard that more important in a student than if it doesn't. If you use big words you're going to like students who write with big words."
"Sure. What's wrong with that?" DeWeese had said.
"Well, there's something whacky here," Phaedrus had said, "because the students I like the most, the ones I really feel a sense of identity with, are all failing!"
I wondered how much I do it.
Say you are grading essays, or presentations, or debate speeches, etc. Which one is best? And what does the grade of "A" mean? "B"? "C"? If scoring is purely holistic (giving a grade based on what you 'feel'), then the grades tend toward meaning "I like this student"/"I dislike this student", to some extent or other. How to mitigate this is Rubrics.
One of my ongoing....disappointments with certain Western coworkers at my present workplace in Korea is that they have a passive hostility to the philosophy behind rubrics (or maybe it's just plain old laziness). That attitude undermines the whole endeavor, I feel.
For example, a presentation contest. "I like Tina and Emily; they are so polite; they worked so hard on that powerpoint; I think they should win". That's the basic attitude one tends towards without a rubric.
I have been part of two presentation contests here: One in early 2012 and one early 2013. In the weeks before the 2012 contest, I was trying to figure out what made a good presentation. From my research, a rubric slowly came together. It was divided into scores for Body Language, Vocal, Visuals, Content, and Group-Cohesion. A series of Yes/No questions awards most points. For example, under the Body Language score were several subscores including 'Smiling'. Good presenters ought not look depressed (and many do). The judge watches and asks, "Are the presenters smiling?" If "Always" then 2 points; if "Sometimes" then 1 point; if "Never" then 0. Unless the judge is lying or mistaken, this system eliminates most bias, which would otherwise run the show. I was proud of this rubric.
I was able to use the rubric successfully in many classes. It shows students exactly how to improve. Hand them their rubrics at the end, and it's right there. It also gives classmates an easy way to review their peers. / Unfortunately, in the actual contest this year, I was the only one who consistently used it; others generally fell back on "That one seems better", which falls into the Phaedrian Grading Trap (above).