“Going Gradeless”: Experiences of Ontario Teachers Moving from Marks to Feedback-based Assessment

Are you an Ontario secondary teacher, who is moving away from grades?  I’d love to hear from you:

I am currently a doctoral candidate in the Educational Leadership and Policy program of the department of Leadership, Higher Education, and Adult Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto. I am doing this research as part of the requirement for the completion of my PhD dissertation, under the supervision of Dr. Carol Campbell.

Overview of the study

The purpose of the research revolves around teachers’ navigation of challenges faced as they choose to go “gradeless”. This study aims to gain a deeper understanding of how teachers conceptualize assessment and the use of grades, how they operationalize assessment processes within their pedagogy, how they see this impacting the school and classroom culture, and how they navigate within the policies set at the school, board and provincial level.

The name of this research project is:

“Going Gradeless”: Experiences of Ontario Teachers Moving from Marks to Feedback-based Assessment

Examples of questions that I have in mind but may or may not ask depending on themes that emerge as our dialogue evolves are:

Please set the context by describing your teaching experience.

Please describe your journey.

How did you come to consider the option to “go gradeless”.

How has your assessment practice changed?

What has the impact been on your students?

What roadblocks have you encountered?

How do you feel about this change?

What do you think are the next steps for you? For your school?


Your part in the research, if you agree, is to participate in an informal interview, of 30 to 60 minutes either face to face or via Skype or equivalent, where you will share some of the assessment decisions you have made, and how these have been influenced by your education, experience, current context, and professional community. The interview will be informal, will last approximately one hour, and will be audiotaped with your permission in order to create a written transcript. The interview will begin with guided questions, as well as open-ended probes, to allow for flexibility in the range of topics discussed. Participation is completely voluntary, and should you decide to participate, you may decline to answer any questions, or end the interview at any time. Once the interview has concluded, you may also contact me by phone or email up to three months following the interviewto ask to withdraw from the study, and request that the entire verbal and written transcript of your interview be destroyed.

Confidentiality and Risks

Your responses will be treated in the strictest confidence, as per the University of Toronto ethics guidelines. There are no known risks associated with participating in this research study. Potential limitations in my ability to guarantee anonymity minimal, as any data collected will be confidential, and all identifying information relating to you, your school or your board will be removed and given pseudonyms.  All paper-based data such as field notes will be stored in a locked filing cabinet at the researcher’s home. All digital data gathered from the study will be stored in a password-protected electronic format on a laptop computer. Only the researcher and supervisor will have access to the data. At no time will your responses be judged or evaluated, nor will any value judgment be placed on your responses as there are no “right” answers. Some of the verbatim examples provided might be published without the participants being identified, to illustrate the overall results of the study.All data in the form of transcripts, field notes and documents will be destroyed one year after the completion of my doctoral degree.

Potential benefits

There will be no compensation for participating in this study, however participants may benefit from the experience by self-reflecting on your teaching practices, explore assessment options, and clarify next steps for your own professional growth. You will also be contributing to the professional growth of the researcher, her colleagues, and other graduate students of OISE.Your input will be adding to the current literature on classroom assessment, and may help educators and policymakers to deepen their understanding and drive change. Results of this study may be used in reports, conference presentation and publications. Interested participants will be sent a summary of the research findings by email.

For any further details, please contact me at terry.whitmell@mail.utoronto.ca, or my thesis supervisor Dr. Carol Campbell at carol.campbell@utoronto.ca. If you have any questions related to your rights as a participant in this study, or if you have any complains or concerns about how you have been treated as a research participant, please contact the Office of Research Ethics, ethics.review@utoronto.ca or 416-946-3273.



Terry Whitmell, PhD Student

OISE, University of Toronto

252 Bloor Street West

Toronto, ON, M5S 1V6, Canada



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