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FINNUT-Forskning og innovasjon i utdanningssektoren

Going gradeless in upper secondary school. Exploring how reduced grading affects communities in Norway

Alternative title: Karakterdempet videregående opplæring

Awarded: NOK 9.3 mill.

Grading has been a key component of assessment systems for hundreds of years. However, researchers and teachers have reimagined the role of assessment in education, leading to teachers "going gradeless" (reducing or eliminating grading). The purposes are many: promoting learning, improving feedback, or increasing student motivation. Reducing grading could impact students in a positive way, but could also have unintended or unforeseen consequences. Nevertheless, we do not know what happens when teachers go gradeless. How is going gradeless practised in schools, and how is it experienced by students and teachers? The Going Gradeless project will answer these questions. There is much interest in teachers' ability to improve their on teaching. The project will explore a bottom-up process where teachers decide to make changes. It investigates teachers' and students' experiences in going gradeless in upper secondary school, focusing mainly on Norwegian, English, Mathematics, and Vocational Training and Education courses. Furthermore, the consequences of going gradeless for school leadership and the assessment system will be analyzed. The project will provide important knowledge of teachers' professional practice at the classroom level, professional development and school leadership, and governance of the assessment system. After a preliminary pilot phase, we are now ready to start data collection in the first cohort of schools. We have also recruited a PhD student as part of the project.

Grading has been a key component of assessment systems for hundreds of years. This research project will examine how going gradeless (reducing or eliminating grades) in upper secondary education affects teaching and learning in school communities. An experienced research group will collaborate with international networks and experts in the field of assessment to contribute to the literature on assessment policies and communities. Using culturally sensitive approaches to assessment research, the project will explore the many facets of going gradeless. Specifically, the project uses an innovative combination of ethnographic data with survey data and verbal protocols to investigate the practices and perceptions of stakeholders. By analysing the implications of going gradeless and connecting the international discourse on assessment reform and accountability with a bottom-up innovation, the project will theorize the role of teacher professionalism in assessment and discuss how going gradeless affects policies and communities. Teachers have been encouraged to rethink grading and reporting practices in schools, arguing that grades are meaningless or even harmful to students’ learning and development (Guskey, 2015). Increasingly, teachers are “going gradeless” (Sackstein, 2015) by either reducing or eliminating the use of grades (Chiaravalli, no date) in their assessment practice. In the Norwegian context, many teachers are now going gradeless to align practice with policy intentions and to improve learning. However, little is known of what teachers do instead of traditional grading practices, how this affects the stakeholders involved, or whether this move has unintended consequences at the system level. Understanding how reduced grading affects assessment communities is crucial for the construction of sustainable assessment communities. In particular, resolving tensions between the many purposes of assessment is significant.

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FINNUT-Forskning og innovasjon i utdanningssektoren