The Subjective Grade -- Do Teachers Give "Fair" Grades?

If you think that your instructor is giving you more or fewer points than you feel that you earned on an assignment -- you may be right.

I work as a Teaching Assistant (TA), and in my years of grad school (as well as occasionally during my work as an undergrad) I sometimes need to grade the work of students. Generally, I enjoy it, but depending on the type of grading needed, it can also drive me crazy.

I've been in many types of grading situations. I have been given complete autonomy over grading some assignments. I have had instructors tell me that I am grading too strictly. I have had other instructors tell me that I am grading too leniently. I have read essays out loud to a blind instructor who then told me what to write and how to grade. I've placed exams into a mystical magical grading machine and had the decision taken completely and literally out of my hands. And in all of these cases, except arguably the last one, there is a frustrating amount of subjectivity in the grades assigned. In other words, room for points to be given that aren't deserved, and room for points to be taken away undeservedly.

It can be something as simple as how bad the student's handwriting is, which determines how far into the essay question the grader can get without becoming frustrated. It can depend on what order they grade the papers in, depending on whether they begin to feel more or less lenient at the tail end of a day of grading. It can, of course, depend on the relationship that is built with a student. It can even depend on how much time is given to complete the assignment of grading the assignments.

Subjective grading can be reduced somewhat by using "blind" grading procedures, where the grader doesn't know to whom the work belongs. Another way to reduce subjective grading is by using a grading rubric that is both thorough but also practical to apply. But at the end of the day, the grade given is to some degree up to chance.

Maybe that's a good thing when the system would give an undeserved grade and the grader can intervene to prevent injustice from the cold hard numbers. But more often than not, the subjectivity of grades seems to be a disservice to students.

What do you think? Is blind grading too impersonal? Do you find subjective grading useful for rewarding students who deserve it?