Gradeless Learning: Better Learning, Less Performance Pressure

In the current education system, where grades often dominate, concerns about the mental health of students are growing. The emphasis on performance has led to an increase in stress and a competitive atmosphere that can undermine students' intrinsic motivation and well-being. Gradeless learning, an approach that focuses on the learning process rather than numerical assessments, may provide a solution to these problems.

The research

A team of researchers, Kjærgaard et al. (2024), investigated the effect of gradeless learning on students' academic performance and motivation. Their study followed students from the bachelor's programs in business administration and psychology. They studied according to a system in which they were only assessed on the basis of 'pass' or 'fail', and received extensive feedback on their performance. The researchers compared this approach to traditional grading methods to evaluate its impact on subsequent academic outcomes, motivation, and learning strategies.

Key Findings

The results of the study were remarkable. Students in the gradeless system showed higher levels of both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and were less likely to use superficial learning strategies. More intrinsic motivation here means that they found learning more fun and interesting. More extrinsic motivation here means that they saw the importance and usefulness of learning better.

Interestingly, there were no significant differences in academic performance between students in the gradeless program and those who received traditional grades, as measured by exam scores in later semesters and the quality of the bachelor's thesis.

The Value of Gradeless Learning

These findings suggest that grade-free learning can not only improve students' motivation and well-being but also that it does not hinder their academic performance. It underlines the potential of an educational approach that focuses more on personal development and less on competition and grade pressure.

Application in Practice

For teachers and students interested in exploring gradeless learning, there are several ways to implement this approach. Start incorporating more formative feedback, focusing on the learning process, and encouraging reflection and self-evaluation. Workshops and training on constructive feedback and personal development plans can be valuable first steps.


Gradeless learning represents an exciting shift in educational assessment that has the potential to transform the student's learning experience. It is not a universal panacea. But it offers a valuable alternative that emphasizes growth, development, and well-being over numerical performance. This research is an important impetus for further discussion and exploration of how we can transform education into a system that supports all students in their pursuit of knowledge and personal development.