Stella Erbes and Students Publish Article on Role of Grading Systems Upon Student Learning and College Admissions
Stella Erbes, divisional dean of the Humanities and Teacher Education Division and associate professor of teacher education, recently collaborated with two students, Mckenna Wizner (’21) and Jackie Powlis (’21), on the article “Understanding the Role of Traditional & Proficiency-Based Grading Systems Upon Student Learning and College Admissions.” The article was published in the Journal of Higher Education Theory & Practice.
The research project originated in Erbes’s first-year seminar class. Wizner was in Erbes’s course, and a discussion arose about how learning is measured in schools, how grading systems impact that learning, and how college counselors account for the variance in grading systems when evaluating students’ academic performance. After the discussion, Erbes invited Wizner and Powlis, another student in the teacher education program, to participate in the Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP).
This study specifically looked at how traditional grading, in which letter grades are assigned, and proficiency-based grading, in which students are expected to fulfill specific learning standards, impact student learning and college admissions.
“Traditional grading has been understood universally, but it also focuses on the product of a letter grade, which promotes competition and stress,” the researchers write. “Proficiency-based grading offers students an alternative assessment method which focuses more on the process of learning; however, its non-traditional terms can be ambiguous and challenging.”
The researchers also found that college admissions counselors are rigorously trained in evaluating a wide array of grading systems in the admission process. However, their systems aren’t universal, and, historically, they’ve relied on norming instruments like standardized tests to assist them in the evaluation process.
To read the full article, visit the Journal of Higher Education Theory & Practice.