Degree Date


Document Type

Dissertation - Public Access

Degree Name

Ed.D. Doctor of Education

Academic Discipline

Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Dr. Mary Ann Kahl


Reducing barriers to learning is vital. High school teachers focus tirelessly on how best to engage students in learning; however, grading, which is a fundamental aspect of a teacher’s responsibilities, may be a significant barrier to learning. This dissertation examines students’ views on grading and learning in an alternative high school setting. The twelve students who are the focus of this research have experienced traditional school settings and an alternative charter school setting, thus they offer a perspective on grading and learning that is more widely informed than the majority of students in schools. This study is motivated by three research questions: (1) What are students’ views on grading and learning and the relationship between the two? (2) What are students’ views on the purpose of school? (3) How do students view school in terms of what is valued and what is meaningful? Previous research on grading and learning has focused on improving the way grading occurs; the dominant recommendation is to shift to a standards-based grading approach. More recently, the research has evolved to elevate the importance of reporting on learning; however, agreement on how best to do that is non-existent. The most important contribution to scholarship on this subject is the primacy of student voice in this research. Adults have shared their views and recommendations with little mention of students’ opinions. Because students are the core of all we do in schools, it is vital to include them in this important conversation and capture their views regarding grading and learning. A qualitative methodology was used to explore how the participants view grading and learning; this included a survey and one on one interviews. The findings show that students view grading as detrimental to learning; however, they accept feedback that informs rather than judges as encouraging and productive. Recommendations are made for how to limit traditional and/or standards-based grading practices, which are fundamentally teacher-owned, in favor of increasing student-teacher partnerships that emphasize descriptive feedback and co-constructed learning goals and outcomes so that learning flourishes for all students.