Creating An Effective Learning Environment: A Growth Mindset Approach In Teaching

Grading systems have been around for centuries and are still used in classrooms today, but what exactly is a traditional grading system, why do we use it, and what are some alternatives?

In this article, we will explore the history of grades, discuss the pros and cons of traditional grading scales, look at the impact they have on student achievement and stress levels, and examine some alternatives to traditional grading systems.

We will also offer tips on how teachers can make learning the focus instead of achieving good grades.

You will be able to access a free mini-course on understanding Standards-Based Grading because at Strobel Education, we believe this is a very important topic for schools.

The History of Grades

Grades have been used for centuries as a way to measure student performance. American educator Francis Walker developed the earliest known grading system in the late 19th century, who created an A-F scale that is still used today.

Grades provide an easy-to-understand method of measuring student progress and achievement over time, while also providing feedback on individual performance. 

Grades can be both motivating and discouraging, depending on how they are administered and interpreted by students.

Understanding the history of grades can help us understand why we use them today and what impact they have on our education system.

What is a Traditional Grading Scale?

The traditional grading scale is the most commonly used system for measuring student performance.

The A-F scale is the most common, with A being the highest grade and F being the lowest.

Other grading scales may use numbers, such as 1-10 or 0-100, or a combination of numbers and letters. The traditional grading scale has both pros and cons.

On the plus side, the traditional grading scale is well-established and understood by both students and educators. It is also easy to use and provides a clear way to compare student performance.

On the downside, the traditional grading scale can be too simplistic, punishing students who perhaps learn the content, but not in the time frame given.

Or if they receive a low score, it makes it very difficult for students to recover from a low score even if they have mastered it later on in the semester.

It is also very subjective, with different teachers using different standards.

The traditional grading scale has been a useful tool, but we now know there is a much better way for measuring students’ progress and making informed teaching decisions.

Why Do We Grade Students?

Why do we grade students?

This is a question that has been debated by educators for many years.

Some believe that grades are necessary in order to measure a student’s understanding and mastery of the subject material.

Others believe that grades are unnecessary and can be harmful to a students’ self-esteem and motivation. So, what are the pros and cons of grading students?

On the positive side, grades can motivate some students to do their best and achieve higher academic standards.

Grades can also provide feedback on student performance and help measure progress over time.

On the negative side, grades can be used to compare and rank students, leading to feelings of inferiority or superiority.

Grades can also create competition among students rather than cooperation.

And grades can actually demotivate students, especially those who struggle and wonder why they should keep trying.

So, what do you think?

Are grades necessary or harmful? Are there any alternatives?

Pros and Cons of Traditional Grading Systems

Traditional grading systems have both advantages and disadvantages. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of using these types of scales in classrooms.


  • Grades can give students a goal to strive for and provide feedback on their progress over time.

  • This can be especially helpful for students who are struggling in a particular subject.

  • Grades also give teachers a way to assess individual performance against the rest of the class, helping them identify areas where students need more guidance or assistance.


  • Grading systems can encourage unhealthy competition between students and lead to undue stress.

  • They can also create a one-size-fits-all approach to learning that doesn’t take into account individual learning styles or levels of understanding.

  • Grading systems can put too much emphasis on achieving good grades rather than on the learning process itself.

There is much to think about here.

Are grading systems helpful or harmful? Do the pros outweigh the cons?

Let us know in the comments below!

The Impact of Grades on Student Achievement, Stress, and Academic Performance

Grades can have a significant impact on student achievement, stress levels, and academic performance.

On the positive side, grades can be a motivator for students to strive for excellence and higher academic standards. They can also provide feedback on progress over time, which can help students identify areas where they need to improve.

However, grades can also be demotivating and create unnecessary stress for students. This can lead to lower self-esteem, feelings of failure, or avoidance of challenging tasks.

Grades can also lead to social comparison and fixed-mindedness, where students become overly focused on achieving good grades rather than learning the material.

So what is the bottom line?

The grading system can have both positive and negative effects on students.

It is important to weigh these pros and cons carefully before deciding whether to use grades in your classroom.

Alternatives to Traditional Grading Systems

While traditional grading systems have been the norm for many years, there is a much more research-based system that yields big results regarding student ownership and achievement.

It’s called standards-based grading.

Standards-based grading focuses on assessing a student’s understanding and mastery of specific standards set by the school or educational body.

This type of system is more focused on objectives rather than grades, allowing teachers to assess each student’s progress according to their abilities and goals.

At Strobel Education, we’ve led and supported hundreds of schools through the process of transitioning to Standards-Based Grading. The results are so encouraging.

How to Make Learning the Focus Instead of Achieving Good Grades

Making learning the focus instead of achieving good grades can be a challenge, but it is possible.

The first step is for teachers to create multiple learning opportunities for their students.

This could include providing hands-on activities or projects, allowing students to work in groups or with partners, and offering different assessments that focus on measuring student understanding rather than just giving out grades.

Teachers should also provide feedback on individual performance rather than just relying on letters or numerical grades.

Finally, teachers should strive to help students understand and appreciate the learning process itself by encouraging curiosity and exploration instead of focusing solely on achieving good grades.


Grading systems have been used for centuries and are still widely used in classrooms today, but understanding the pros and cons of traditional grading scales, as well as exploring some alternatives, is essential if we want to make learning the focus instead of grades.

We hope this article has helped you gain a better understanding of traditional grading systems and provided you with some tips on how to make learning the focus instead of achieving good grades.

At Strobel Education, we are dedicated to helping teachers make their classrooms more equitable and meaningful for all students. We offer a variety of support and services, such as our online Standards-Based Grading course.  If you want to check out Module 1 of the course for free, you can find it here.

We support schools and help teachers implement Standards-Based Grading so they can feel confident and secure in this grading system.

Check out our website for more information, or contact us directly to learn more!

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