Grading can Decrease Student Motivation

Source: University Affairs, Dec 2012

Behavioural economics might also explain why grading sometimes decreases student motivation: attaching an incentive sends a message that one is required. For instance, in a 1997 study researchers asked people in central Switzerland whether they would be willing to accept construction of a nuclear waste storage site in their community. When financial compensation was offered as part of the deal, it actually made people less likely to accept the proposal. The incentive backfired because it signaled that the potential downside would be large.

Similarly, when grades are attached to an activity, it can send a message that the task must be undesirable. Thus it could be especially dangerous to hand out marks for the most interesting tasks – such as attendance in elective courses. Dr. Reid also points out that when students know they’re being graded, it can discourage risk-taking and creativity.


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