Recently I had to go to the store to pick up some more pencils, and I started talking to friends about past classes and how some teachers required them to only write in pen. As an old, decrepit fellow, I can see this as being reasonable. My eyes are getting old and worn out-- when I read a student's essay, I want to be able to see it. Sometimes pencil marks smear and fade, which can make things difficult. With pen there is a permanency to the writing. It stays there, it cannot be erased, only scratched out. For a more quantitative exam, a student may attempt to erase an answer written in pencil, claiming that I made a mistake with grading. I suppose one could argue that a student may attempt to do the same with pen, but I think if someone scratches out an answer, that it is not nearly as subtle as erasing it.
Another issue in the Pen vs Pencil debate remains the type of work that one is having students do. Often times with free writing, we cannot properly organize our thoughts. So we will spend a great deal of time scratching out the word vomit that we produce. I believe teachers ought to expect students to carry both pens and pencils on them in English classrooms. Diagramming sentences is pretty tricky with pens, after all.
The Jesse Jennings