Grading and the Believing Game

Turtle Retro Art ImageOne thing I do as I grade papers is play a form of the Believing Game. Playing the Believing Game as I read keeps me from being overly critical or annoyed while I grade papers number 19 at 1 a.m., and it reminds me to trust my students’ abilities.  Let me explain. . .

The Doubting Game and The Believing Game is an exercise developed by Peter Elbow (1998) and is designed for writing critique groups. Stay with me. . .

As teachers, we most often play the Doubting Game when we read papers.  We grade papers looking for what is wrong and what needs improvement.

For example, “This paper has no thesis and is confusing.”

The Believing Game, on the other hand, looks for what the paper does well and attempts to understand what the writer is trying to do with the paper.

For example, “There are several good points here with a lot of detail.”

By believing in what the student is trying to do, I can find positive things to say about a paper, and I often gain insight into seemingly bizarre or confusing aspects to a paper. So, while I grade and mark the areas that need change (the Doubting Game), I also try to take a moment to play the Believing Game to help balance my grading and my written responses.


Elbow, P. (1998). Writing Without Teachers. (2nd ed.) New York: Oxford UP.

*To download an explanation of the Believing Game, click on the words Believing Game in the above post.

3 Responses

  1. Kella says:

    An excellent reminder indeed! Thanks, Melody!

  2. kuwcnews says:

    Thanks, Tanya. Yes, I agree. It is hard to be balanced and reflective, especially when I believe it is something they should know or that we talked about in class. We train a lot in doubting and not as much in believing, at least not when it comes to scoring papers. Glad to see you on the blog!

  3. Tanya Peterson says:

    Thank you for this very poignant reminder! It is so easy to fall into the trap of playing only the Doubting Game, even with the best of intentions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: