To grade or not to grade; that is the question

Grades or not.jpg

Back to introduction page


Participants will understand the difference between “knowing” verses “understanding”, and develop strategies to assess for understanding.

Participants will evaluate their grading practices to assess the learning outcomes they give the most credit for.

Making the "grade"

What, exactly, do we measure with grades in our classroom? What does an “A” or “B” mean on a report card? Stop and consider this for a moment; “To keep the focus on learning, we must carefully consider what we are measuring….it is crucial that we value and accurately measure academic achievement.” (Winger) Read the following two articles by Winger and Scriffiny for some new perspectives grading what we value.




Listed below are several quotes from the two articles you have just read. Do you agree or disagree with their statements?

  • “Grades tend to measure students’ short-term recall of information, rather than long-term, meaningful understanding”. (Winger, p74)

  • ”Parents want to know what missing work their child can turn in for credit, recognizing, quite accurately, that grades are primarily a reflection of effort rather than progress towards learning goals.” (Winger, p74)

  • ”If higher order thinking skills matter most, then that is what our grades must assess, record, report and reward.” (Winger, p74)

  • “The crucial idea is to use a system that is not based on the inappropriate use of averages.” (Scriffiny, p 72)

  • “I don’t assess student mastery of any objective until I am confident that a reasonable number of students will score proficiently, ant that makes each assessment mean much more.” (Scriffiny, p 73)

  • In Figure 1, which of the two grade books for the same set of students illustrates what students know and what they still need to learn?” (Scriffiny, p 73)


As a response to these readings, consider the following questions: How is “knowledge” different from “understanding”? What do your grading practices show that you value?

In the article by Winger, you are given examples of how some teachers restructured their grading practices to ensure critical thinking and understanding. What actions could you take to ensure your grading practices promote learning that is enduring and relevant?

Back to Unit 2
Forward to Unit 4