The Zen of Grading

23 Pages Posted: 12 Dec 2009

Date Written: December 7, 2009


Law professors 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. 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. It is a “terrible occupation,” a “cloud,” a task which we accomplish with less efficiency and more distaste as our teaching career advances. Professorial engagement with exams 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. In short, grading is universally disparaged.

This published article seeks to rejuvenate the thousands and thousands of hours I have spent grading exams by looking at grading as a zen practice, with humor, cynicism, and personal quirkiness.

Suggested Citation

Robson, Ruthann, The Zen of Grading (December 7, 2009). Akron Law Review, Vol. 36, pp. 303-323, 2002-2003, Available at SSRN:

Ruthann Robson (Contact Author)

CUNY School of Law ( email )

2 Court Square
Long Island City, NY 11101
United States

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