School of Education


Doctor of Philosophy in Education (PhD)


Katelynn Wheeler


grading, school leaders, beliefs, grading, grading reform




The purpose of this phenomenological study was to understand the beliefs regarding school-wide grading practices held by school leaders employed by Central Pennsylvania schools. The theory guiding this study was Bandura’s social cognitive theory (SCT) as it explains how behaviors (and subsequent beliefs) are shaped from past experiences, environment, and social interactions. This qualitative study utilized a transcendental phenomenological approach to understand common or shared beliefs held by school leaders regarding grading practices. Ten school leaders from Central Pennsylvania were selected for the study. Data was collected through semi-structured interviews, focus group interviews and vignette responses. The data gathered from each of these sources was then compared to determine if there was consistency among the themes. The major themes emerging from this study were that school leaders believed that gradings should be meaningful, grading should not be used as a punitive measure, and that student work ethic is valued. Additionally, the participants shared some knowledge of non-traditional grading practices that promote accuracy and equity, the recognition that there are problems associated with traditional grading, and that their grading beliefs were developed during their teaching career and shaped by their administrative role. Finally, participants shared that grading reform is not a top priority and a reluctance to pursue such a reform if it was. Empirical and theoretical implications in relation to social cognitive theory are presented. Implications for policy and practice are also discussed.

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