The Development of Student Meaning and Mindset Through the Practices of Standards-based Grading

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Miller, Kari Lynn
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Middle Tennessee State University
Standards-based grading is a philosophy of grading in which teachers give students grades based entirely on the students’ mastery of the content standards, allow students multiple opportunities to demonstrate mastery, and provide rewards and consequences for student behaviors outside the scope of grades. The purpose of this study was to explore how middle school students at a new middle school made meaning of their learning based upon their interactions with the school’s practices of standards-based grading and whether their interactions resulted in the development of a growth mindset towards their larger potential for learning. Two research questions guided this study: What meanings do middle school students make from their interactions with the practices of standards-based grading at a new middle school? What mindset qualities do middle school students adopt from their interactions with the practices of standards-based grading at a new middle school? This grounded theory study adopted a practice-based epistemological approach, which holds that individuals learn and know by engaging in the practices of their daily environments. The researcher explored the meanings and mindsets of seventh grade students as they interacted with the practices of a standards-based grading system, which included retake opportunities, remediation sessions, and choice offerings. The students reached five conclusions: Learning takes time and effort, everyone deserve multiple chances to learn, learning and grades are both important, perseverance should be rewarded in teacher grading practices, and students hold decision-making power with regard to their own learning. The researcher also identified six mindset qualities of students. First, students believed that they could change their learning potential through time and effort. Second, they felt that giving effort or practicing is not a sign of lesser talent or intelligence. In addition, students recognized that a moment of failure is not hopeless and that people who care about them value improvement and growth. Students felt that their ultimate potential for learning is not predetermined. Finally, they decided that some challenges require time and effort that they cannot, or will not, give.
Growth mindset, Middle school, Mindset, Practice-based theory, Practice theory, Standards-based grading