(Un)making the grade: An instructor’s guide to mitigating the negative impacts of grades within a neoliberal university system


  • Adriana Brook University of Toronto


grading, assessment, motivation, autonomy, neoliberal, post-secondary, formative feedback


Critics of the neoliberal university argue that grading undermines student learning. In this article, I survey the literature in order to ascertain whether such critiques are supported by pedagogical research. Investigating the relationship between grading and motivation, feedback, and autonomy, respectively, I conclude that grades most often do undercut learning. I explore the implications for instructors at Canadian universities, suggesting that abandoning grades is currently neither feasible nor best for students. I propose pragmatic adaptations to common grading practices that better promote learning and conclude that the implementation of less grade-centric assessment strategies is not only the best way to support student learning but also a way to challenge and mitigate the influences of neoliberal ideology in higher education. 

Author Biography

Adriana Brook, University of Toronto

is a teaching-stream assistant professor in the Department of Classics at the University of Toronto with research interests in post-secondary instruction, faculty development, and ancient language pedagogy. In the sphere of classics, she works primarily on ritual elements in Greek tragedy with a secondary interest in the reception of Greek tragedy in republican and early imperial Rome. Her book, Tragic Rites: Narrative and Ritual in Sophoclean Drama, appeared with University of Wisconsin Press in 2018. adriana.brook@utoronto.ca


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How to Cite

Brook, A. (2022). (Un)making the grade: An instructor’s guide to mitigating the negative impacts of grades within a neoliberal university system . McGill Journal of Education / Revue Des Sciences De l’éducation De McGill, 57(2). Retrieved from https://mje.mcgill.ca/article/view/9992