Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Studies (to 2007)


Many hypotheses have been offered regarding the impact on learning caused by the most traditional practice of summative student evaluation, namely that of assigning marks to students. Sufficient evidence exists to suggest this practice often has detrimental effects. This study was designed to investigate the following three questions: (1) How does the method of summative student evaluation impact self-regulated learning in low-achieving high school mathematics students? (2) How does the cognitive level of the task mediate the relationship between method of summative student evaluation and self-regulated learning? (3) How does the length of time students are exposed to a method of summative student evaluation impact self-regulated learning?

The study was conducted in the context of three high school summer school mathematics classrooms. In one classroom, quizzes were given and traditional letter grades were assigned. In a second classroom, quizzes were given; however, they were only graded with a mark of credit or no-credit. In the third classroom no quizzes were given. Four lessons were taught in each classroom.

Data was collected through the videotaping of each class, the collection of artifacts of student work, and the interviewing of four students from each classroom. A qualitative analysis of the data revealed evidences of self-regulated learning in each classroom, across levels of cognitive difficulty, and across time. This led to the conclusion that the traditional practice of assigning letter grades to students was likely neither a required prerequisite to self-regulated learning nor a deterrent.

Although the impact of the instructional methodology was not a question this study was designed to address, the qualitative nature of the data allowed for the discovery that a constructivist methodology may have a positive impact on self-regulated learning within the structure of any of the three summative evaluation conditions. In addition, a limited amount of evidence was found to suggest self-regulated learning may increase given a longer exposure to a classroom in which no marks were assigned.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access