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Grading in education

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Grading in education is the process of applying standardized measurements for varying levels of achievements in a course. Grades can be assigned as letters (usually A to F), as a range (for example, 1 to 6), as a percentage, or as a number out of a possible total (often out of 100).[1]

In some countries, grades are averaged to create a grade point average (GPA). GPA is calculated by using the number of grade points a student earns in a given period of time.[2] GPAs are often calculated for high school, undergraduate, and graduate students, and can be used by potential employers or educational institutions to assess and compare applicants. A cumulative grade point average (CGPA), sometimes referred to as just GPA, is a measure of performance for all of a student's courses.


Yale University historian George Wilson Pierson writes: "According to tradition the first grades issued at Yale (and possibly the first in the country) were given out in the year 1785, when President Ezra Stiles, after examining 58 Seniors, recorded in his diary that there were 'Twenty Optimi, sixteen second Optimi, twelve Inferiores (Boni), ten Pejores.'"[3] By 1837, Yale had converted these adjectives into numbers on a 4-point scale, and some historians say this is the origin of the standard modern American GPA scale.[4]

Bob Marlin argues that the concept of grading students' work quantitatively was developed by a tutor named William Farish and first implemented by the University of Cambridge in 1792.[5] That assertion has been questioned by Christopher Stray, who finds the evidence for Farish as the inventor of the numerical mark to be unpersuasive.[6] Stray's article also explains the complex relationship between the mode of examination (oral or written) and the varying philosophies of education these modes imply to both the teacher and the student.[6] As a technology, grading both shapes and reflects many fundamental areas of educational theory and practice.

The A-D/F system was first adopted by Mount Holyoke College in 1897.[7] However, this system did not become widespread until the 1940s, and was still only used by 67% of primary and secondary schools in the United States in 1971.[4]


It is criticized that grades are only short-term snapshots of how much a student has learned in a given period of time, which only partially reflect the actual performance and does not take sufficient account of the individual development of students.[8] Likewise, poor grades over a longer period of time would give students the impression that they would learn very little or nothing, which jeopardizes the innate intrinsic motivation of every child to learn.[8][9] Children who have already lost their desire to learn and only study for their grades have no reason to continue learning after they have achieved the best possible grade.[9] In addition, poor grades represent destructive feedback for students, since they do not provide any constructive assistance, but only absolute key figures.[8] It is also criticized that the way of thinking, which can often be traced back to the grading system, that bad grades lead to poor future prospects, leads to perplexity, pressure, stress and depression among parents and children.[8][9]

It is criticized that students often do not learn for their future life or out of interest in the material, but only for the grades and the associated status, which promotes bulimic learning.[9][10]

German philosopher and publicist Richard David Precht criticizes the system of school grades in his book Anna, die Schule und der liebe Gott: Der Verrat des Bildungssystems an unseren Kindern. He believes that numbers from 1 to 6 do not do justice to the personalities of the children.[11] In his opinion, grades are neither meaningful nor differentiated and therefore not helpful.[11] For example, the questions whether a student has become more motivated, is more interested in a topic, has learned to deal better with failure and whether he has developed new ideas cannot be answered with grades.[11] Instead, Precht suggests a differentiated written assessment of the students' learning and development path.[11] In his opinion, the grading system comes from a psychologically and pedagogically uninformed era and does not belong in the 21st century.[11]

German educational innovator Margret Rasfeld criticizes the system of grades as unhelpful and, in her opinion, the resulting competitive thinking in schools and says: "School is there to organize success and not to document failure."[12]

German neuroscientist Gerald Hüther criticizes grades for being responsible for ensuring that students cannot specialize in any topic that they are enthusiastic about and have a talent for, since otherwise their grades in other areas would deteriorate.[13] He also believes that "our society will not develop further...if we force all children to conform to the same evaluation standards".[13]

Grading may also reflect the bias of the instructor thereby reinforcing systematic bias.[14]

Grading systems by country[edit]

Most nations have their own grading system, and different institutions in a single nation can vary in their grading systems as well. However, several international standards for grading have arisen recently, such as the European Baccalaureate.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Salvo Intravaia (7 November 2009). "Il liceale con la media del 9,93 "Sono il più bravo d'Italia"". repubblica.it (in Italian).
  2. ^ grade point average. (n.d.). WordNet2.0 Retrieved 3 October 2011, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/grade point average
  3. ^ Pierson, George (1983). "C. Undergraduate Studies: Yale College". A Yale Book of Numbers. Historical Statistics of the College and University 1701–1976. New Haven: Yale Office of Institutional Research. p. 310. Archived from the original on 21 January 2016. Retrieved 30 March 2013.
  4. ^ a b Schinske, Jeffrey; Tanner, Kimberly (2014). "Teaching More by Grading Less (or Differently)". CBE life sciences education. 13 (2): 159–166. doi:10.1187/cbe.cbe-14-03-0054. ISSN 1931-7913. PMC 4041495. PMID 26086649.
  5. ^ Postman, Neil (1992). Technopoly The Surrender of Culture to Technology. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. p. 13.
  6. ^ a b Christopher Stray, "From Oral to Written Examinations: Cambridge, Oxford and Dublin 1700–1914", History of Universities 20:2 (2005), 94–95.
  7. ^ Jessica Lahey (12 March 2014). "Letter Grades Deserve an 'F'". The Atlantic.
  8. ^ a b c d "Stress blockiert Kinder: Warum Noten in der Schule nicht zukunftsfähig sind". FOCUS Online (in German). Retrieved 17 December 2020.
  9. ^ a b c d "Das Dilemma mit den Schulnoten". n-tv.de (in German). Retrieved 17 December 2020.
  10. ^ Ammel, Rainer (2017). Gute Noten ohne Stress: Ein Lehrer verrät die besten Tipps und Tricks, um das Gymnasium erfolgreich zu bestehen. Heyne Verlag. ISBN 9783641197285.
  11. ^ a b c d e Precht, Richard (2013). Prinzipien für eine Bildungsreform: Der Besuch des Kindergartens sollte Pflicht sein. Die Zeit.
  12. ^ Jebsen, Ken (18 August 2019). "Positionen 18: "Akadämlich" – Freies Denken unerwünscht!". KenFM.de (in German). Retrieved 17 December 2020. Schule ist dazu da, das Gelingen zu organisieren und nicht das Misslingen zu dokumentieren
  13. ^ a b Rinas, Jutta (5 September 2012). "Wie wichtig sind gute Noten?". HAZ – Hannoversche Allgemeine (in German). Retrieved 17 December 2020. ...sich unsere Gesellschaft nicht weiter [entwickele]... Wenn wir alle Kinder [dazu] zwingen, sich an dieselben Bewertungsmaßstäbe anzupassen...
  14. ^ Snell, Martin; Thorpe, Andy; Hoskins, Sherria; Chevalier, Arnaud (August 2008). "Teachers' perceptions and A-level performance: is there any evidence of systematic bias?". Oxford Review of Education. 34 (4): 403–423. doi:10.1080/03054980701682140. ISSN 0305-4985. S2CID 144851201.