Teachers’ Assessment and grading Practices in upper secondary Science Classrooms in Sweden : The Teachers’ and Students’ Perspectives

Sammanfattning: This dissertation acknowledges that accountability of educators for the grades they assign is a part of the foundation for a meritocratic society, based on fairness in judging merit and, therefore, in assigning grades. In this view, any grade obtained by any student must be both reliable and valid. This, in turn, implies that the process of assessment of students’ work on which the grade is based must also be both reliable and valid. A recognized method to obtain this is to base assessment of students’ work on verified standards which are known and recognized by all agents with an interest in the resulting grade. Accountability for grades may then be obtained by transparency, where it is possible to show what the grades are based on, whether it is quantitative or qualitative data.The empirical research conducted within the scope of this dissertation used qualitative research methods, including individual face-to-face interviews with 25 active and qualified science teachers working in science programs in different schools in southern Sweden, a four week ethnographic observation in three classrooms of one school—one observation in chemistry, one in physics and one in biology, and face-to-face interviews with teachers and students who participated in the ethnographic study. The findings show mutual agreement regarding assessment and grading practices among the teachers, both from teachers’ and students’ viewpoints.From the findings in this thesis it was concluded that, formally, assessment for grading is mainly based on paper-and-pencil tests, but that there are other factors influencing the assigning of grades, such as performance expectations and pressure from different agents inside and outside the school. The students are in general neither participating in the process of deciding on what and how to assess nor any decisions about the assessment itself. The assessment is, in practice, not confined to paper-and-pencil tests, but in general not supporting the learning process during the lessons.Taking into account the paradigm shift from merely cognitive assessment to today’s action-oriented learning and assessment, as it is established in the Swedish national curriculum, I suggest that further studies of classrooms interactions and assessment practices for grading, may benefit teachers and students, as well as the society as a whole.