The Gradeless Paradox: Emancipatory Promises and Constraining Effects of Gradeless Learning

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Abstract

This article offers a novel perspective on the role of grades in business education by examining opportunities and challenges arising from gradeless learning. The negative implications of grades for students’ approach to learning and well-being have spurred interest in gradeless learning in higher education, with current literature focusing primarily on positive outcomes for students such as the advancement of student learning, reduction of stress, increased motivation, and enhanced performance. We present a mixed-methods case study of the experiences of Danish business school students exposed to gradeless learning in a first-year undergraduate program in which all grades were substituted with pass/fail and feedback. Contrary to previous research, gradeless learning did not influence stress levels and performance. However, our qualitative data show that students experienced learning without grades with ambivalence: Although gradeless learning was associated with less pressure, higher motivation, and more collaborative learning, it engendered a feeling of identity loss and created uncertainty about own performance and future opportunities. We explore these dynamics by applying the notion of identity work in transitions as an original and fertile perspective from which to study students’ ambivalent experiences of both the emancipatory and constraining effects from gradeless learning.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the Eighty-first Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management
EditorsSonia Taneja
Number of pages1
Place of PublicationBriarcliff Manor, NY
PublisherAcademy of Management
Publication date2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021
EventThe Academy of Management Annual Meeting 2021: Bringing the Manager Back in Management - Online
Duration: 29 Jul 20214 Aug 2021
Conference number: 81
https://aom.org/events/annual-meeting

Conference

ConferenceThe Academy of Management Annual Meeting 2021
Number81
LocationOnline
Period29/07/202104/08/2021
Internet address
SeriesAcademy of Management Proceedings
ISSN0065-0668

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