Monday, November 30, 2015

Assessment and learning without grades

Can you eliminate grades and stress from higher education and make university about learning rather than grades? Yes you can. Can you persuade a government which wants to reduce higher education to a meaningless league table of misleading metrics that it's a good idea?

Assessment and learning without grades? Motivations and concerns with implementing gradeless learning in higher education. (2015) Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, doi: 10.1080/02602938.2015.1114584
The relationship between assessment and learning in higher education often comes down to a single thing: a grade. Despite widespread criticism of grades as inexact tools, whose overemphasis undermines student learning and negatively affects student well-being, they continue to be the norm in the assessment of student learning. This paper analyses an alternate form of assessment: so-called ‘gradeless learning’. This study theoretically and geographically contextualises the recent implementation of a gradeless learning policy at a large public university in Asia, and presents findings from a student opinion survey about the policy. The paper shows that respondents overwhelmingly understand and often agree with the central claims of gradeless learning, including its potential to ease students into college life, allow them to make more daring choices in their studies and even develop as lifelong learners. However, the aim of relieving stress among one group of students has increased stress for others. The study explains the circumstances that create this divergence in student stress levels, which are both locally specific and common to all gradeless systems. The paper concludes by discussing the effectiveness of the gradeless system in achieving its aims and suggesting future research avenues.

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