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How to Create a Gradeless Classroom in a School That Requires Grades

Listen and learn

Listen and learn : Snapshot

Andrew Burnett  
Change student focus from receiving a grade to understanding the material. Learn the seven-step process and technologies that I use to give students meaningful feedback instead of grades. Help student self-assess to determine grades based on their understanding of the material.

Audience: Teachers, Principals/head teachers
Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices useful
Attendee device specification: Smartphone: Windows, Android, iOS
Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Tablet: Android, iOS, Windows
Participant accounts, software and other materials: None
Topic: Innovative learning environments
Grade level: 6-12
Subject area: Math, STEM/STEAM
ISTE Standards: For Educators:
  • Explore and apply instructional design principles to create innovative digital learning environments that engage and support learning.
  • Set professional learning goals to explore and apply pedagogical approaches made possible by technology and reflect on their effectiveness.
Additional detail: Session recorded for video-on-demand

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

The purpose of this talk is to show teachers the benefit of switching to a classroom that does not focus on grades but instead puts an emphasis on understanding the content and to show them the steps for reaching that goal. At the end of the presentation participants will be able to assign practice work using Assistments and insert help videos, structure their assessments around learning targets, record feedback videos and upload them to Seesaw, and help students self-assess and gather evidence of their understanding.


5 minutes - Participants will be shown an two examples of student work for a math problem and they will be asked to grade each. Participants will then share with their peers the grades they chose. I have done this activity in the past and I know that the results will show differences in the grades and how grading is subjective.

5 minutes - Participants will learn why grading homework is not beneficial because it doesn't show student understanding. Homework can be more effective with immediate feedback and customized help videos using an online site called Assistments

25 minutes total - Participants will be shown the seven steps to creating a gradeless classroom.
1. Identify learning targets.
2. Assessing the students using Check Ins instead of tests or quizzes
3. Giving video feedback to students using Seesaw.
4. Teaching students to self-assess.
5. Students saving their work to their online portfolio.
6. Using retakes for students to show understanding after reviewing their work.
7. Students gathering evidence of their understanding and determining their grade using Google presentations.

(This presentation can easily be expended to an hour long lecture)

Supporting research

Black, Paul, and Dylan Wiliam. 1998. “Inside the Black Box: Raising Standards through Classroom Assessment.” The Phi Delta Kappan 80 (2): 139–48.

Butler, Ruth. 1988. “Enhancing and Undermining Intrinsic Motivation: The Effects of Task-Involving and Ego-Involving Evaluation on Interest and Performance.” British Journal of Educational Psychology 58: 1–14.

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Andrew Burnett, Day Middle School in Newton, Massachusetts

Andrew has been interested in effective education practices his entire adult life. He has been a math teacher for 18 years and is currently teaching 7th grade math at FA Day Middle School in Newton, MA. In 2012 he took a five year hiatus from the classroom to work on an educational study at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. That experience, more so than any other, had a significant influence on the effectiveness of his classroom instruction.

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