Grade less, Assess more.


Haunting grades?!

BOO! Are grades haunting your students?! Well, this week our professional learning group for mathematics had a lengthy discussion about the idea of a “gradeless” classroom. At first, many of the pre-service educators shot their hands up in protest or with intense questions. In fact, many of the concerns were actually about fear of parental retaliation! So this post I want to look at: (1) What is this gradeless classroom all about? (2) What does it look like? and (3) Is it right for my classroom?


screen-shot-2016-10-28-at-11-38-34-amA gradeless classroom DOES NOT mean that students don’t receive grades. It does NOT mean that the teacher does nothing. It DOES NOT mean that students and parents are in the dark. What it DOES mean is: greater transparency

According to our class discussions, we agreed that a gradeless classroom switches the focus from letter or number grades to learning and feedback. The idea is that students receive meaningful feedback from their teacher, their peers, and themselves (assessment AS learning anyone!?). As a result of this, we expect students concentrate less about getting a grade and more about how to use their feedback.



Source: Interactive Achievement – Sally l’Anson –

The gradeless classroom highlights the extreme usefulness and importance of feedback systems before any concrete grade is given. We can use assessment for learning and assessment as learning to achieve our improvement towards meeting the success criteria or curriculum expectations.

This looks like constant formative feedback, but with time to act on the feedback to actually create learning! In “Making It Count: Providing Feedback as Formative Assessment“, Troy Hicks emphasizes that we must move from a fixated student product to having multiple opportunities to reflect and move forward in learning. The key word here is multiple – if we only have students review their work once, are they really learning or are they simply correcting their work?

Students also need to become evaluative of their own work. If we give students the opportunity to give themselves a grade, they are most likely going to choose a letter/number without reason. However, if we are constantly practicing self-assessment then we offer students the opportunity to reflect on where they are, where they want to go, and how they can get there! “Evaluate” is next to the top of Bloom’s taxonomy for learning and it is imperative to learning for students to do so. Edugains is a great Ontario resource to help re-structure your opportunities for self-assessment in the classroom.


Source: The collective wisdom of authors published in the September 2012 issue of Educational Leadership: “Feedback for Learning.” (Volume 70, Issue 1).


In my opinion, there is always a place in education to increase formative and useful feedback processes and switch the focus off of the actual grades. That being said, explicitly stating that your classroom is “gradeless” can seem difficult, especially if you have not prepared your students to use or give feedback. Many educators also worry about the parental reaction to saying their child will be in a gradeless classroom. This can be magnified here in Ontario where we have students from cultures that value grades/performance over the learning process. However, our professor Shelly Vohra has explained that after educating parents on the process, they are almost all usually on board. This means that as an educator, if we are prepared and can support our reasoning for our methods, we can feel confident with implementing them.

I hope this feature has helped you understand the potential benefits of going gradeless or at the least, implementing better feedback systems in your classroom! Please let me know if you have any concerns or if you have tried this in your classroom! What has worked? What was difficult? What should others know about?!

– A


Teachers Throw Out Grades – FB Page

#TTOG – Twitter Feed

Going Gradeless (Edutopia)

Ditching Grades


2 thoughts on “Grade less, Assess more.

  1. Another great blog post Andrew!

    Thanks for highlighting that a gradeless classroom does not mean they don’t receive grades (they do when they get their report card); its just that the focus is on the learning and not the achievement. As I mentioned,if we give feedback and a grade, the student will ignore the comments and focus primarily on the grade, defeating the purpose of the descriptive feedback.

    In terms of parents, yes, there will be push back but once parents start noticing that their child is engaged in his/her learning, the stress is gone and he/she is happier, and they are more reflective in their learning, they will like that fact that grades aren’t coming home.

    Some might say that this is great but eventually they will go back to the same routine in high school and college/university where they receive grades on a weekly basis – my question is “Why can’t the change start from above (uni/college) instead of change happening at the elementary levels?”

    Best of luck in your next placement!

    Shelly 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Shelly! … Yes, systemic issues of incongruent assessment goals through a student’s career can make elementary efforts seem rather pointless. I would welcome the opportunity to implement better feedback systems as I try to enter the secondary education system! 🙂


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