Putting a stop to red ink in the classroom

Colors are a form of nonverbal communication. The color red is generally associated with passion or anger and green is often described as calm and safe. According to traffic signals red means stop and green means go.

Subconsciously, the meanings of color transfer over to other aspects of our lives. So it comes as no surprise that some schools are banning the use of red pens. Red ink inadvertently gives students the idea that the teacher has the final say and triggers them to scan their papers for their final grade.

The grading process should be a way for educators to provide constructive feedback and start an open dialogue with their students, right. After all, what is the purpose of grading if students do not understand the reason behind why they earned a certain grade?

Mounts Bay Academy, in Cornwall, England, encourages teachers to use green pens—signaling students to “go” and promote engagement. While teachers mark papers in green ink, the students are expected to leave their comments in purple ink to continue the conversation around their work.

Do you agree that using red ink can minimize student engagement? Why or why not?