The promise and pitfalls of gradeless learning : responses to an alternative approach to grading

McMorran, Chris and Ragupathi, Kiruthika (2020) The promise and pitfalls of gradeless learning : responses to an alternative approach to grading. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 44 (7). 925–938. ISSN 0309-877X

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This paper examines an alternative approach to grading at a public university in Singapore. Beginning in 2014, all incoming students were given a ‘grade-free’ period of assessment. This was designed to give new students time to adjust to university life and to inspire students to approach their learning free from the worry of grades. Similar to pass/ fail systems elsewhere around the world, this example of what we call ‘gradeless learning’ reflects long-term national aims of reducing society’s emphasis on the letter- and number-based grades and developing a country of lifelong learners. This paper shares student and faculty reaction to the alternative approach to grading, through four surveys conducted during the 18 months following its implementation. Over 3000 responses from students and nearly 500 responses from faculty reveal both groups recognise the potential of gradeless learning to positively impact student learning and well-being, by helping students adjust to university life and encouraging them to take more academic risks without worrying about grades. However, both groups cite problems with gradeless learning, namely poor learning attitudes and behaviours, which arise when grades can no longer be relied on to motivate learning. Faculty members, in particular, feel frustrated by their lack of an active role in this alternative approach to grading, which was designed exclusively to benefit students. This study suggests that the success of gradeless learning anywhere requires the support of faculty partners, who must be integral in developing pedagogical innovations that can help de-emphasise grades as a way to motivate and measure learning.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Journal of Further and Higher Education
Additional Information:
This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Journal of Further and Higher Education on 26/06/2020, available online:
Uncontrolled Keywords:
?? gradesgradeless learningstresswell-beingmotivationeducation ??
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Deposited On:
21 Oct 2020 10:45
Last Modified:
05 Jan 2024 00:26