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The Formative Potential of Standards-Based Grades and Report Cards

CAMERON, LATHAM,JENNER (2020) The Formative Potential of Standards-Based Grades and Report Cards. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Following the initial standards reform movement in U.S. education to establish learning objectives for subject curricula, standards-based grades (SBGs) and standards-based report cards (SBRCs) are theorized to unlock the formative potential in these traditionally summative means. Research on this initiative is in its infancy and my thesis focuses on four areas which remain under- investigated: the degree to which the SBG and SBRC formative rationale holds true; SBG and SBRC impact on student motivation; student perceptions of SBGs and SBRCs; and how the SBRC form impacts student meaning making.
My mixed methods case study took place within the middle school of an American international school during the school’s final years with traditional letter grades and its initial years of implementing SBG and SBRC reform. I investigated the meaning students constructed from grades and report cards with the two systems, and how the SBG and SBRC shift impacted student motivation. Results were interpreted using formative assessment theory, the work of Vygotsky and Wertsch, and Self-Determination Theory. Focus group findings revealed that students perceived letter grades uniformly as summative measures, but two contrasting student constructions of SBGs and SBRCs were found: an autonomy supporting formative function through connecting them to criteria rubrics, and a controlling extra step obscuring letter grade standing. It is concluded that schools hoping to maximize the formative potential of SBRCs should avoid a hybrid SBRC. Quantitatively, questionnaire results indicated the SBRC shift had minimal impact on the average motivation of the student population. Integrating focus group results with these quantitative findings, I argue that gains in autonomous motivation within some constructions of SBGs and SBRCs were negated by losses from other constructions.
These findings reveal the potential of SBGs and SBRCs to positively impact student learning and motivation, while also raising questions about their successful implementation for all students.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Formative Assessment, Assessment, Self-Determination Theory, Vygotsky, Wertsch, Grades, Report Cards, Standards-Based Grades, Standards-Based Report Cards, Feedback, Focus Groups, Motivation, Mixed Methods
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Education, School of
Thesis Date:2020
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:11 Sep 2020 09:09

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