What’s in a Grade? A Multiple Perspective Validity Study on Grading Policies, Practices, Values, and Consequences

Collaborative scholarship in assessment, evaluation, and knowledge mobilization

What’s in a Grade? A Multiple Perspective Validity Study on Grading Policies, Practices, Values, and Consequences

The current global trend towards globalization, immigration, and internationalization of schools and universities has led to the increased use of grades across learning cultures. However, very little is known about cultural differences that contribute to the construction, valuing, and consequences of grading practices. The purpose of this study is to investigate the validity of grades by examining the values and consequences of teachers’ grading practices in two distinct learning cultures: Canada and China. There is an urgent need to understand the validity of grades across learning cultures given their use for student promotion, mobility, and acceptance into educational programs internationally.

Currently, the lack of research on grading practices provides unprecedented challenges to grade interpretation and use across educational systems. Grades are often used as the key decision-making tool for the acceptance of students into Canadian universities. However, grades are not consistently constructed or valued across educational systems. Therefore, understanding the differences in grading practices in Canada and China will enable valid interpretations of student achievement based on grades. Establishing valid grade interpretations is critical given the direct impact these interpretations have on the many students who come to Canada to study and settle, and on Canada itself-socially, educationally, and economically. The short-term impact is evident in changing dynamics in schools and neighbourhoods across Canada; the long-term impact will be evident in the availability of knowledge workers, professionals, and citizens supporting the Canadian economy.

Despite the impact of grading on classroom teaching and learning, researchers have long recognized the lack of theoretical grounding of teachers’ grading practices. They have called for examining grading practices with contemporary validity theories instead of traditional psychometric approaches to validity, which are ill-fitted to classroom assessment practices as they rely on standardized assessments and large-scale data. In contrast, contemporary validity theories integrate multiple perspectives into a socio-culturally situated argument on the alignment of grading practices, values, and consequences. Our study integrates the perspectives of teachers, students, parents, and principals to understand the validity of grading practices within and across two learning cultures. A comparative study of Canada and China provides a unique opportunity to understand the socio-cultural factors influencing the validity of grades.

Dr. Liying Cheng (Principal Investigator), together with Dr. Christopher DeLuca (Co-investigator), are investigating the validity of grades by examining the policies, practices, values and consequences of teacher constructed grades in Canada and China. This study is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Insight Grant (2015-2020).

Research Method
This study employs a sequential mixed-methods design, featuring multiple iterations of data collection and analysis with multiple participants over five years. 

Graphic describing research methods from year 1-5

Select Publications

Cheng, L., DeLuca, C., Braund, H., & Yan, W. (2018). Grading in Canada and China: A comparative study. Comparative and International Education, 47(1), 1-24. Infographic | Summary | Full Article

DeLuca, C., Braund, H., Valiquette, A., & Cheng, L. (2017). Grading policies and practices in Canada: A landscape study. Canadian Journal of Educational Administration and Policy, 184, 4-22. Infographic | Summary | Full Article

Cheng, L., Yan, W., Mei, Y., & DeLuca, C. (2017). Grading policies in China: Are we assessing the learner or the learning? Assessment Matters, 11, 6-31. Summary


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