Grading Versus Reporting
Ongoing formative assessment is critical to student learning. The most effective teachers embed formative assessment and feedback in learning at all points. Receiving feedback allows students to learn and self correct while it still matters. Grading, on the other hand, is an endpoint to learning.
“NOW WE KNOW THAT GRADES AND TEST SCORES DEMOTIVATE RATHER THAN MOTIVATE STUDENTS, AND THAT THEY COMMUNICATE A FIXED AND DAMAGING MESSAGE TO STUDENTS THAT RESULT IN LOWER CLASSROOM ACHIEVEMENT”
Here is what research says:
- One of the top ten most effective teaching strategies is providing feedback to students during the learning.
- Grades alone do not increase learning.
- Grades tend to decrease student interest in learning (Kohn, 1998)
- Even grades accompanied by feedback do not increase learning. The feedback must be low-stakes, not attached to performance evaluation (William, 2011).
- Providing feedback promotes student growth, self awareness, efficacy and agency by helping learners self-monitor. Feedback and formative assessments, as well as an awareness that errors are a natural and essential part of the learning process, are keys to instilling a growth mindset.
- Feedback that best supports student learning is specific and descriptive (Black and William, 1998)
- Receiving feedback improves students’ metacognitive and self-regulatory skills (Hattie, 2017).
“WHEN STUDENTS ARE GIVEN A PERCENTAGE OR GRADE, THEY CAN DO LITTLE ELSE BESIDES COMPARE IT TO OTHERS AROUND THEM, WITH HALF OR MORE DEDUCING THAT THEY ARE NOT AS GOOD AS OTHERS. THIS IS KNOWN AS ‘EGO FEEDBACK’, A FORM OF FEEDBACK THAT HAS BEEN FOUND TO DAMAGE LEARNING”
- Formative assessment is an essential component of effective teaching. It raises standards of achievement for all students, but especially impacts low achieving students.
- Grading reduces the achievement of students, and negatively shapes students’ views of mathematics and themselves. (Boaler, 2016).
- If teachers don’t help students understand that mistakes are essential to learning, students may not be willing to take the risks necessary for learning (Davies, Herbst, Reynolds, 2011.)
- Feedback needs to be descriptive, not evaluative. A mark going into a gradebook does nothing to improve learning (O’Connor, 2011)
- Formative assessment also provides feedback for more effective teaching.
Of course, this doesn’t mean we don’t grade. We are responsible for providing evidence of learning to students, parents, schools, divisions, and the province. However, we can agree that grading does not equal learning, so we should be mindful of how much we grade (knowing that it can be detrimental to many students who define themselves and are demotivated by grades) and also that to be effective, our time is better spent on formative assessments and feedback.
- Boaler, J. (2015). Mathematical Mindsets. San Francisco, CA. Jossey-Bass.
- Davies, A., Herbst, S. and Parrott Reynolds, B. (2011). Leading the Way to Assessment for Learning: A Practical Guide, Second Edition, Courtenay, BC: Connections Publishing and Bloomington IN: Solution Tree Press.
- Davies, A. & Busick, K. (Eds.) (2007) Classroom Assessment : What’s Working in High Schools. Books 1 & 2. Courtenay, BC: Connections Publishing.
- Hattie, J., Fisher, D., Frey, N., Gojak, L., Delano Moore, S., & Mellman, W. (2016). Visible Learning for Mathematics, Grades K-12: What Works Best to Optimize Student Learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Mathematics.
- Keeley, P., and Tobey, C. (2011). Mathematics Formative Assessment: 75 Practical Strategies for Linking Assessment, Instruction, and Learning. National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. Thousand Oaks, CA. Corwin.
- O’Connor, K. (2011) A Repair Kit for Grading: 15 Fixes for Broken Grades, 2nd edition. Pearson Assessment Training Institute.