School of Communication and the Arts


Master of Arts in Communication (MA)


Marie Mallory


media ecology, medium, media, grades, grading system, grade orientation, learning orientation, learning, education, communication




This qualitative study was undertaken to study the medium of the grade in education contexts under the assumptions made within the field of media ecology. The goal of this study was to build on previous research that has identified that learning-oriented students are better set up for success in the classroom than grade-oriented students. With this in mind, this study aims to identify, from the student perspective, what different aspects of the grading system communicate to students that they should value in the classroom, especially in regard to grade-oriented or learning-oriented mindsets. After conducting interviews with current students from a variety of institutions and fields of study, the researcher has determined a list of 15 aspects of the grading system that students expressed influence their learning or grade orientation in one manner or another: application of knowledge assessments, busywork, career/interest relevance, class discussions, feedback, late policies, participation points, pass/fail systems, point-farming enablers, project decomposition, relationship with professor/classmates, retakes/redoes, rubrics, societal labels, and tests/quizzes. According to the constructs of media ecology, each of these aspects of how students are graded inherently and invisibly influences the ways that students perceive and engage with the classroom context. Further study is needed to identify how new grading systems can be developed that focus primarily on the grading aspects that promote learning-oriented environments to see if, in practice, they do indeed produce more learning-oriented students than our current grading systems.

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