Two University of Colorado professors claimed they have demonstrated that teachers' customary use of red pens in marking corrections and grading papers often impacts students negatively and erodes teacher-student relationships, decreasing learning.
News.com.au and ABC Science reported a paper by University of Colorado sociologists Richard Dukes and Healther Albanesi documenting their new study was published in The Social Science Journal, and that some educators, have expressed skepticism about the team's findings.
The Colorado study suggested that because red is an "emotive" color (expressing or exciting emotion), corrections penned in red ink were more likely to be perceived by students as "shouting," an "emotional loading" that could generate anxiety or stir up feelings of blame against the teacher and lead to rejection of otherwise constructive feedback.
Instead, teachers should use blue pens to mark papers, Dukes and Albanesi concluded.
News.com.au asked the NSW Teachers Federation if the color of the teacher's pen could impact a student's learning significantly enough to warrant recommending the switch, but the organization reportedly declined to comment for the story.
Still, the News.com.au article continued, the Montessori School Foundation of Australia's director of training Amy Kirkham responded that how teachers express their comments and corrections is what matters, not the ink color.
ABC Science reported that students whose papers were graded with blue ink tended to give teachers higher scores in a quality Dukes and Albanesi termed "bedside manner."
But a University of British Colombia study published February 5, 2009 in the journal Science found both blue and red affected motivation and performance, with red enhancing attention and blue boosting creativity, ScienceDaily reported.
And in April 1998 researchers at the University of Alberta and Penn State published a study in the journal Teaching of Psychology arguing they had demonstrated experimentally that color-coding midterm examination forms in either red or blue affected test takers' performances -- participants taking blue exams scored higher, the authors wrote.