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