Non-graded student assessment growing (and progressive) trend in Western Canada, says UBC Prof

Schools boards in Alberta and British Columbia are trending toward non-graded approaches to student evaluation for students in primary and intermediate grades. Non-graded assessment policies have recently been adopted in Calgary, AB and two British Columbia districts, Maple Ridge and Abbotsford.

Institute for Critical Education Studies co-director Sandra Mathison, who is Professor in the Measurement, Evaluation, and Research Methodology program at University of British Columbia calls
gradeless evaluations ‘progressive’ in an article in the Vancouver daily The Province.

Mathison said removing early grading could help stop kids from studying strategically just to get As.

“Having a letter grade or a percentage grade … fosters competition and a sense that you have to be better than other people, and detracts from the idea that what you are doing in school is learning something.”

This afternoon in an interview on CKNW AM 980’s Sara Simi Show, Mathison pointed out that teachers have an incredible stores of knowledge about students that is not communicated to parents or students through traditional report cards. With the introduction of non-graded assessments, “teachers will have an opportunity to say a great deal more about what their students have accomplished and what students need to continue working on than is currently the case.”

Mathison characterized traditional report cards as focused on efficiently communicating simple reports of students achievement. She said that the use of grades or percentages produces an “overconfidence” in the actual meaning of summative indicators such as letters grades or percentages, which are “devoid of the specifics that would help students know where they are and what they need to work on.” Traditional report cards, “also limits the information to parents as well,” Mathison added.

A key issue in the success of non-graded assessment policies, according to Mathison, is the willing of parents and schools to engage in dialogue with one another about both the process and substance of how to best evaluate student learning.

Stream or download the Mathison’s CKNW interview on non-graded student assessment here.

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