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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Reporting, grading, and the meaning of letter grades in Science 9 : perspectives of teachers, students and parents Brigden, Susan Rae


This study investigates the reporting and grading, as well as the meaning of letter grades, of students in Science 9 from the perspectives of teachers, students, and parents in five schools from two British Columbia school districts, one urban and one rural. To that end, four research questions guided the data collection and analyses: (1) What reporting methods do teachers use to communicate information about student learning in Science 9 to students and parents, and what are teachers', students', and parents' opinions of those reporting methods? (2) What grading components do teachers incorporate into Science 9 letter grades, and what grading components do students and parents believe teachers incorporate into Science 9 letter grades? (3) What meanings do teachers, students, and parents attribute to Science 9 letter grades? and (4) What are students' and parents' perceptions about some possible effects of student progress reports in Science 9? A mixed-methodology design was employed to collect the data. Quantitative data, collected via self-administered written questionnaires from the five Science 9 teachers, 43 students, and 21 parents who volunteered to participate in the study, were used to identify participants' practices and perceptions about grading and reporting. Qualitative data, collected via individual, audio-taped interviews conducted with a subset of the people who completed questionnaires (all five teachers, 16 students, and seven parents), were used to verify, clarify, and expand the questionnaire data. Observational notes and collected documents (e.g., report card forms) also served as data sources. The results of this study show that most of the participants in the study were generally satisfied with most aspects of the reporting of student progress in Science 9. However, individual teachers consider different kinds of assessment information when they assign Science 9 letter grades, teachers are not always clear and consistent about what they intend letter grades to mean, and students' and parents' beliefs about the grading components and meanings of Science 9 letter grades vary widely. The results pf this study also indicate that the information communicated by a letter grade is not always clear and consistent. That the meaning of a letter grade is not always clear has implications for the ways in which letter grades are used by students and parents. The results of this study indicate that some students' attitudes, behaviours, and decisions could be affected by the grades they receive in Science 9. However, in order for students' attitudes, behaviours, and decisions to be appropriate, their interpretations of the meanings of letter grades must be appropriate. Given the multiple meanings attributed to a Science 9 letter grade, it is likely that peoples' inferences and actions based on a letter grade will not always be appropriate. This study raises a number of issues. Two classes of issues are discussed: those arising from the research findings, and those arising from the methodology of the study. An example of an issue arising from the research findings is that the process of assigning letter grades is problematic. An example of an issue arising from the methodology is that participants do not always interpret questionnaire items in the way they are intended. This study contributes to our understanding of teachers' grading practices with respect to the assignment of Science 9 letter grades, and it provides information about students' and parents' understandings of those grading practices. The study also provides insight into teachers', students', and parents' understandings of the meaning of letter grades. In addition, the results of this study help us understand some possible consequences of reports of student progress from the perspectives of students and parents. Another contribution is a direct result of the methodology of the study — by interviewing a subset of the questionnaire respondents after they had completed the questionnaires, it was possible to learn more about how different people interpreted the questionnaire items; that is, it was possible to explore the internal validity of the study. As a result, this study offers evidence about the value of employing more than one data collection method when conducting research.

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