Student Perceptions of Grades (page 3)
Students’ perceptions of grades are important for two general reasons (Black & Wiliam, 1998; Crooks, 1988; Ross, Rolheiser, & Hogaboam-Gray, 2002). First, grades and other aspects of classroom assessment influence student motivation to learn. Second, grades and other aspects of classroom assessment provide students with information that they use in their learning. These two purposes are related, since the availability of various kinds of information influences students’ decisions about how and why to use the information.
Psychologists have recognized that student perceptions are important for a very long time. For example, in the mid-20th century behaviorists conceived of motivation as a drive or emotion. In order to predict behavior from behaviorist theories, one needed to know the strength of the motivational drive, the person’s perception of how likely their behavior was to be successful, and the incentive value for them of the reward they would receive. The importance of these kinds of perceptions has endured, even though educational psychology is no longer dominated by behaviorist theories.
Today, cognitive psychologists are interested in motivation (student wishes and intentions) and volition (student actions) as bases for effort in school. What students want and the decisions they make are clearly student perceptions. Some of the same perceptions that once were interpreted in behaviorist terms remain important, reinterpreted according to the theories of cognitive psychology. Since cognitive psychology emphasizes students’ thought processes, additional student perceptions have been identified as important; for example, students’ perceptions of the reasons for their successes or failures. Student perceptions important to the educational psychology of grading include:
- Perceptions of what the task or assignment they are asked to do actually means
- Students’ perceptions of what constitutes quality work
- Level of interest in the particular topic or material
- Perceptions of the difficulty or level of challenge of a particular task or assignment
- Beliefs about whether they can be successful on a task or assignment, called self-efficacy (Pajares, 1996)
- Perceptions of the importance of a particular task or assignment for its own sake, sometimes called its intrinsic value
- Perceptions of the instrumental importance of a particular task or assignment to something else that is worthwhile (whether it will help with learning in the future, for example), sometimes called utility value (Eccles, 1983)
- Beliefs about the reasons for success or failure, sometimes called attributions
- Reasons students give for wanting to learn, called goal orientations (Ames & Archer, 1988; Elliott & Thrash, 2001)
- Perceptions of the feedback received after doing a task or assignment, especially whether it is informational or controlling (Deci & Ryan, 1985)
- Their own perceptions of the quality of their work, called self-monitoring (Sadler, 1989)
- Perceptions of the distance between their performance as described in the grade or feedback and their conception of quality work
Crooks (1988) reviewed several different bodies of literature and synthesized what we know about the influences of classroom evaluation practices on students. (For an overview list of short-, medium-, and long-term effects, see Crooks, 1988, pp. 443−444. For other excellent reviews of the effects on classroom evaluation practices on students, see Black & Wiliam  and Natriello .) Classroom evaluation practices, of course, include grading, and some of the influences of classroom evaluation in general that are particularly relevant to grading include the following. Grades on individual assignments influence students by
- encouraging (or discouraging) active learning strategies,
- providing knowledge of results and feedback,
- assisting students in self-monitoring,
- influencing the selection of further learning activities to increase mastery, and
- assisting (or discouraging) a sense of accomplishment.
Grades on a whole course or extended learning experience (e.g., report card grades) influence students by
- influencing motivation to study the subject in the future,
- influencing students’ perceptions of their abilities in the subject,
- influencing choices of learning strategies and study habits, and
- describing or certifying achievement in the course, thus influencing future course selection.
And finally, long-term consequences of classroom evaluation that are particularly relevant to grading include
- influencing the development of student learning skills and styles,
- influencing ongoing motivation to learn, in the subject and in general, and
- influencing students’ perceptions of themselves as learners.
© ______ 2009, Merrill, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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