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Gradeless Classrooms: Education’s Newest Trend
posted by: Melissa | August 22, 2018, 01:53 PM   

Have you heard about “going gradeless?” The desire to upend the traditional A-F and percentage point grading system has been mounting for several years. Now, there’s a new trend in this movement to eliminate grades altogether.


What Does Going Gradeless Mean?

Despite what the name may imply, going “gradeless” doesn’t mean teachers completely stop assessing students or evaluating their work. It does mean the way that student achievement is assessed and evaluated changes - significantly.


How it changes and what exactly a gradeless classroom means and looks like is still up for debate, but everyone in the movement agrees on a few factors. First, gradeless teachers tend to put an emphasis on comments that provide specific and actionable feedback, instead of percentages or letter grades. Those teachers who do feel the need to boil down work into a single mark, often use broad, overarching comments that are meant to give students a general idea of their progress, such as Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory.


A second factor in this system is to place students in the center of their own evaluation. Students are often integral in setting their own learning goals and evaluating how they progressed during the marking period. Gradeless classrooms replace collecting grades throughout the marking period with an end-of-quarter conference or the equivalent. Rather than a grade on a report card seeming to come out of the blue, students become intimately involved in their own learning process and results. They are then able to better understand why they received what they did on their report card and how they can improve in the next marking period.


What’s Behind the Trend?

As has been stated earlier, educators have been exploring alternative grading systems for a while. So, in many ways this is a continuation of a trend that’s been growing for some time. The educators behind this trend believe that the traditional grading system doesn’t adequately reflect student learning. They say that the emphasis in these systems often measures who can jump through hoops the best, not who is learning the most. So the driving force in this trend is to put the emphasis back on learning and to motivate and acknowledge deep learning and understanding over rote memorization.


Additionally, educators who support removing grades entirely, talk about how much the move helps to alleviate stress, both for them and their students. Teachers no longer feel obligated to tackle every single stack of papers in front of them. Likewise, students no longer feel punished when they make a mistake in their work, or feel recrimination when they earn a grade that’s lower than they had expected.


Where to Find Out More:

If you would like to learn more about going gradeless in your classroom, you can do so by reading the book Hacking Assessment or by visiting the website Teachers Going Gradeless.


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