Grades not a good measure of leaning. There are so many issues with grades.

Behavior is a function of people and the environment.

Lewin’s Equation

It is particularly challenging in programs like nursing with high GPA entrance requirements.

What can we do?

How can we support the creation of an environment that is focused on learning?

  • Emphasize broader outcomes that include transferable skills
  • Playing games to increase engagement
  • Co-creation of assignments and rubrics (suggested by others and I love it)
  • Giving the students input
  • Create relationships and limit class size to facilitate this
  • More self-assessment or agency
  • Contract grading
  • Recognize the disconnect between the need to have objective measures and how subjective learning is
  • Pass/fail courses in the curriculum


Alignment is very important. Spend time and assess the things that matter.


Intrinsic motivation is crucial. When we assign grades to everything students start doing only what is worth marks. Giving them choice is going to promote intrinsic motivation. Key factors include

  • Autonomy
  • Mastery
  • Purpose

It cannot be too easy or too hard or students will disengage. To enhance mastery we need to find a balance. Consider language in the Syllabus (and other materials) that takes away a sense of choice. Instead of “students must” identify that “students will have the opportunity to.” How do we help students see that they can get better? We need to build a culture of reflection. Collect feedback on learning. Promote reflection using carefully planned prompts.

Activity Reflection

Removing the pressure of grades and competition had an impact on how the room worked and the work that people produced.


What small things can we do in our contexts to frame the discussion around grades. Language and empowerment is important.


Laura Killam is an experienced nursing educator from Northern Ontario with a keen interest in improving student learning through innovation. For more information please visit http://nursekillam.com/.


Leave a Reply

Avatar placeholder

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.