In her thesis Alli Klapp Lekholm analyses grades, results of national tests, student backgrounds and different types of schools.
She has based her analysis on data from the GOLD (Gothenburg Educational Longitudinal Database) database at the University of Gothenburg, consisting of grades from 100,000 year nine students from 2003 as well as questionnaire data for around 9,000 of them.
Measure other aspects
The Swedish national curriculum states that it is only knowledge in individual subjects that should be graded. The multi-dimensional grading model that Alli Klapp Lekholm has developed shows that the grades covering subject knowledge in Swedish, English and mathematics – cognitive factors – also measure aspects with which the results of the national tests are not concerned.
– They concern interests, motivation and parental involvement. Three to five percent of the grade is explained by factors other than the student’s level of knowledge, says Alli Klapp Lekholm.
Highlight the complexity
– This might be worrying from the point-of-view of fairness. Not all students have these advantages. It is therefore of particular importance to highlight the complexity, that factors other than knowledge are being assessed when grades are assigned.
Previous studies have shown that students’ future academic careers can be relatively well predicted through grades. In its turn this might be due to precisely the multi-dimensionality of grades and the fact that grades measure both students’ subject knowledge and their interests and motivation.
Differences between schools
Alli Klapp Lekholm’s results demonstrate that girls’ grades are influenced by factors other than cognitive ones to a greater extent than those of boys. The higher grades that girls are receiving is largely explained by the fact that girls are more interested in school work and have greater motivation to learn.
The thesis also analyses differences in grading between schools. The results show that the factors that are not to do with subject knowledge play a greater role in schools with a large proportion of students with poorly educated parents, and in suburban schools.
– This means that the teachers in these schools are allowing the students’ motivation and interest greater weight in relation to pure subject knowledge in a kind of compensatory grading, says Alli Klapp Lekholm.
Her results also confirm previous studies that show that students from independent schools receive higher grades than students from municipal schools, findings that are however explained by reference to the relatively better level of knowledge of the independent school students.
However, in both comparisons of grading between schools, the difference in grading disappears if the parents’ level of education is taken into account.
Funding from the Swedish Research Council
Alli Klapp Lekholm is currently working as part of the research team at the Department of Education that is engaged until the end of 2011 in researching grades in the project ”Grades, comparability, prognostic validity and effects on learning”, with SEK 4.5 million in funding from the Swedish Research Council.
Alli Klapp Lekholm presented her thesis ”Grades and grade assignment: effects of student and school characteristics” at the Department of Education on Thursday 18 December 2008.