Does Gradeless Learning Affect Students’ Academic Performance? A Study of Effects Over Time

Annemette Kjærgaard*, Julie Buhl-Wiggers, Elisabeth Naima Mikkelsen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Many have suggested that performance grading may be a factor in the increasing number of students reporting having mental health issues, including feelings of stress. Gradeless learning has been shown to ease the pressure on students because it encourages a focus on learning rather than performance. Indeed, gradeless learning has been documented to benefit well-being, stress reduction, motivation, and learning approach, but its influence on academic performance requires more investigation. Drawing on a quantitative analysis, we empirically examine the effect of gradeless learning on a broad set of outcomes including well-being and stress, but focus specifically on students’ later academic performance as measured by grades. Our findings reveal that gradeless learning can increase motivation and reduce surface learning but has no significant effect on students’ later academic achievements. The study concludes that gradeless learning can provide a relevant alternative to grades if carefully designed.
Original languageEnglish
JournalStudies in Higher Education
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)336-350
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024

Bibliographical note

Published online: 05 July 2023.


  • Gradeless learning
  • Academic performance
  • Higher education
  • Student well-being
  • Motivation
  • Learning approach

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